A lesser-known work by the Godfather of the Dead, Martin is a solemn thesis on the many misconceptions about vampire.
Martin is a nondescript young man living in Pittsburg, one with a horrifying hobby. He sees himself as a vampire and is fond of sedating women, before cutting them up and drinking their blood. When Martin’s bloodlust heightens, he begins to seek out more targets, eventually even targeting people on the streets. His actions quickly convince his spiteful relative, Cuda, that he must be stopped. Cuda plans to destroy the young man/vampire once and for all, with the classic method of a stake through the youngster’s heart.
One doesn’t associate the Godfather of the Dead, George A Romero, with sombre, quiet works. That is probably the reason why this 1976 masterpiece of his is lesser-known, occasionally even forgotten.
Don’t get me wrong, Martin is not short of horrific moments. But if you’re looking for the sort of gleeful intestine spilling and neck gnawing carnage found in Romero’s undead movies, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
More of a stoic dissertation than dramatic storytelling, Martin dissects popular concepts of vampirism through the disturbing antics of the eponymous protagonist. That of a faceless, mundane youth with no supernatural powers or weaknesses. Whose only indulgent pastime is also to (unimpressively) drug women, cut them, then feed on their blood.
In a way, this fascinates by itself. A fascination made provocative by the concurrent unspoken message that vampires are unlikely to survive long or happily in our real world.
What might disappoint horror fans, on the other hand, is that like many such contemplative movies, there is no conclusive end. Martin eventually pays a heavy price for his hobby but what it means and what it represents, that’s entirely up to you to decide.
Needless to say, the “truth” of whether Martin is indeed a vampire is also as murky as the ending. As much as I enjoyed the philosophical slant, this ambiguity left a certain dissatisfaction in me.
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