Visionary director George Romero gave birth to the modern zombie in his 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead. Almost every zombie film that has been created since begins with his template and goes from there. Then in 1978, the same year Dawn of the Dead was released, he set his sights on vampires. The result is Martin, one of Romero’s lesser known and under-appreciated films. The story centers on teenage Martin who is either a true vampire or a serial killer with a taste for blood. The brilliance of Romero’s script is that he leaves it completely up in the air for his audience to decide. Young Martin drugs his victims and then drinks their blood through an incision on their body. Everyone dies and no one is “turned” into another vampire. Gone are the capes, the fangs, the bats, and the fog. In their place are mystery, hunger, curiosity and murder.
John Amplas [Day of the Dead, Creepshow] is great as Martin. He’s in every scene and nails the character completely. He holds his secrets close, only letting us see bits and pieces of himself along the way. We watch him evolve as both a killer and as a sexual being. Like a train wreck, you can’t take your eyes off of him and wonder what he’s going to do next.
Lincoln Maazel, Martin’s Uncle, is a modern day Van Helsing. He’s the only character in the movie that has an old-world, gothic feel to him. He’s the cross carrying Nosferatu slayer who everyone looks at as if he’s a bit crazed…but maybe he’s the only sane one in the film. Hmmmm.
The pace of Martin is a bit slow but that’s not a problem for me. Romero takes his time telling the story and those who stick with it will be rewarded. The blood effects by Tom Savini [Dawn of the Dead] work well and if you watch closely you’ll also spot Savini in a cameo performance in the film. Romero also makes an appearance as Father Howard.
The biggest surprise for me is how good Martin looks in spite of its minuscule budget. Romero does a lot with a little and he is to be commended for it. Don’t miss this one. Martin is Romero at his creative best and gives us a vampire story that’s inventive and compelling.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.