These are some of the questions asked in George A. Romero’s “Martin” (1978). Although better known for his “____ of the Dead” series, Romero always considered “Martin” his favorite work. The low-budget, humanitarian biography about a boy who may or may not be a vampire is certainly an overlooked gem.
When we first join Martin (John Amplas), it’s on a train ride to Braddock, a suburb in Pittsburg. In the nearly dialogue-free opening, we see Martin attack a girl with a needle, attempting to soothe her as she falls asleep by saying that he’s “very careful with needles.” When she has passed out, he rapes her and then cuts open her wrists to drink her blood. Afterwards, he abandons the corpse. Given how terribly disturbing this sequence is it’s impressive that Martin still becomes such a sympathetic anti-hero. It’s also interesting that though the opening is grainy, confusing and poorly shot, the rest of the film ultimately comes together quite well.
We never find out one way or another whether Martin is what his uncle believes him to be, but it hardly matters. Even if he is nothing but a misguided teen, after years of receiving only revulsion, fear and wrath from his closest family members and suffering from a compulsion for blood that alienates him from society, Martin himself has internalized the belief that he is a vampire. When he starts to call in to the late-night radio show (a plot device smartly introduced as a confessional narration before we realize it’s a real phone call), he tries to correct the popular misconceptions about being a vampire. The radio host clearly exploits Martin as a pitiable freak and it’s tough not to feel sorry for him as he describes his sexual anxieties (he can only do “the sexy stuff” with drugged victims) to the amusement of the host and listeners.
Walrus Rating: 8.0