Tuesday, October 8, 2013

REVIEW: Martin

Director: George A. Romero
Year 1976

Martin is a fantastic and original vampire story which turns the genre on its head in a wholly surprising and ambiguously presented way. Directed by the legendary horror filmmaker George A. Romero, this unique gem tells a twisted tale that is more mysterious than anything else. Drenched in a Grindhouse aesthetic and filled with engaging imagery, Martin is a sadly underrated flick which goes above and beyond the normal vampire yarn. Unexpected and extremely enjoyable, you'd be a fool to let this one slip you by.

The film follows a confused and tormented young man named Martin, who is plagued by a superstitious family and a number of sick tendencies. After moving in with his elderly Uncle Cuda, Martin is quickly accused of being a vampire by his overly religious uncle, sparking fantasies inside Martin's mind that he is an 84 year-old vampire doomed to take the life of innocent victims in order to quench his thirst for blood. Whether confused or factually vampiric, Martin indulges his darker side as he stalks his prey during the day and satisfies his urges at night, all the while trying to stay clear of his uncle's wild accusations.

John Amplas takes on the role of Martin, the mentally disturbed young man who may or may not be a blood sucking vampire. Performed in daring style, Amplas is sensational as the tormented Martin, giving a raw and realistic approach to the over the top scenario which, through his subtle style of acting, is extremely believable. Grounded in reality and infused with an off kilter personality, Amplas thrives as the mysterious character, making every effort to get under our skin as he shows Martin going about his every day routine. As a George Romero regular Amplas has made a nice little career out of showing up in the iconic filmmaker's movies like Dawn of the Dead, Knightriders, Creepshow and Day of the Dead, and it is in Martin where he gets his first gig and starring role. It is amazing the range and subtlety that Amplas is able to portray in the film and you'd be hard pressed in telling that this is his first real feature, but against all odds he absolutely nails it. Creepy and ridiculously authentic, Amplas makes for an engaging specimen and his presence in the film is an extreme asset to the production.

Supporting Amplas' star turn is a rag tag group of familiar faces. Christine Forrest, AKA Mrs. Romero, takes on the role of Christina, Martin's Cousin, and she gives an endearing and heartfelt performance. Struggling against the oppression of her overbearing grandfather, Christina in defiant rebellion stands up for reason only to be beaten down by superstition and family tradition. Forrest conveys all of these frustrations with great ease and I highly enjoyed her performance. Tom Savini plays the role of Christina's boyfriend Arthur, the deadbeat and jobless jerk who constantly stands her up. Savini only appears briefly in a few scenes, but it's always nice to see him crop up in Romero's pictures, even if it's only to play a non-essential character. The real counter balance to John Amplas Martin is Lincoln Maazel as Cuda, the God fearing, self-proclaimed vampire hunter. He really makes an impression in the film as he constantly hounds Martin to keep on the straight and narrow and not steer from the path, unless death and damnation be what he's after. Maazel is a force to be reckoned with in the movie, and like Amplas, his presence is a great benefit to the validity of the film.

What this film really has going for it is that it is entrenched in a real world like setting, immersed in actual locations and true to life characters. Martin is never conveyed as anything more than a confused and troubled young man, and the situations that he gets himself into are not too far-fetched for someone of his mindset. There's an honesty to the approach of the film, and in that genuine portrayal we're able to absorb our self into the cinematic world that Romero has crafted. It's an extremely effective way in presenting the film and an even more unique way of approaching a vampire tale, but the unorthodox angle seems to give it a sense of validity that truly brings the film into its own.

Constantly playing with the fact that Martin may or may not be a vampire, is an engaging mystery that begs to be explored, but we never focus on this fact solely. Instead we just get caught up in the wild situations that Martin gets himself into while he tackles the urges to kill, and wholly hell are they wild. One of my favorite moments of the film has Martin breaking into a woman's house after her husband leaves on a work related trip. Hoping to catch her all by her lonesome, Martin bursts into her bedroom, only to find her in mid lovemaking with a naked stranger. Shocked and a bit irritated, Martin jumps across the bed and stabs the man with a syringe in order to drug him and take him out of commission. Then Martin proceeds to mess with the couple as they try to phone for the police, by dialing numbers on the other line and screwing up the connection. What a prankster. During this whole scene, Martin plays cat and mouse with the couple, toying with them as he pricks them again and again with the sleep inducing drug. It's a wild sequence of events and it pretty much sums up the uncanny nature of the production. If this sounds like an interesting genre bender to you, then give it a try. It comes highly recommended and is an excellent overlooked Romero classic.

Martin is a voyeuristic look into the mind of a maniac. A maniac that isn't too sure if his instinct to kill is of the natural or supernatural kind. Either way, Martin the character has a slew of problems and the ambiguous way in which the filmmaker's approach this subject matter is a breath of fresh air. Amass with memorable moments and teeming with gritty textures, Martin is a vampire film that is unlike anything you've seen before in the genre.

Headlined by a stupendous and authentic cast of characters, this down to earth production is one that grabs you by the throat as it shows you some of the most obscure of wonders. John Amplas is an absolute thrill as the titular Martin and his eccentric characteristics and evasive origins are one of the film's most engaging mysteries. The familiar cast of Romero regulars is another pleasing aspect of the production, not to mention the stylistically unique settings of Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. There is just something so damn special about the film's of Romero shot in his hometown. There is a genuine raw energy to be found in every one of his productions around this time period, and Martin seems to cull all of these energies and focus them into delivering a thought-provoking story that is as ambiguous as they come. Dripping with religious overtones and awash in vampire lore, this modern take on the classic vampire tale is a unique beast. If you are looking for something that's a little bit different and a whole hell of a lot of fun, then give this old Romero classic a go. Martin is an.....

Cuda thinks you look like NOSFERATU!!!!!

Martin respects people's personal space, even though he is a creep.

What a little prick!

Martin has a deadly fear of candles.

Tom Savini without a mustache is like Jesus without a beard.... Lame!

The chicks just dig Martin.

Martin, what are you up to you little pervert?

I told you to stop calling! This isn't the sexy vampire hotline!

Pull my finger Nosferatu!

George Romero you beautiful bastard!

Look out grandpa! Martin is on the hunt!

Martin you silly, silly man.

I just can't look at you without that mustache.

Look out Pittsburgh! Here comes Martin!

Sweet turtleneck dude.

Messy baby!

Don't drink and bathe!

See what happens when you don't pull grandpa's finger!


  1. right up there with dawn of the dead as my favorite romero film. one thing i've got to say about this otherwise excellent blog is your pictures are very spoilery.

    1. It's definitely a great flick, and one of Romero's best, but I could never narrow down which one of his films is my favorite. Too many classics in the bunch.. Haha.

      Sorry about the spoilery pictures. I always just choose the images that best describe the film in the most vibrant way and sometimes a few spoiler embedded images seep through. I try not to go too overboard with it, but the Martin one is a doozy.

      Personally knowing too much information about a movie before I watch it never really spoils it for me. What interests me is experiencing all the story that the film has to offer as it gradually progresses to that final, spoiler-centered ending. I've never been a fan of shock or twist endings for the sake of surprising the audience. Well let me rephrase that... I enjoy surprise endings but I don't rely on not knowing what happens next to get enjoyment from it. To me, I want a film that I can watch over and over again and just be absorbed into the character's lives, without relying on that one shocking moment to hold the appeal of the entire production.

      Again I can see why people don't want to know anything about a film before viewing, because it is enthralling to be caught up in the moment not knowing what will happen next, but it is something that I don't worry too much about when researching new, or unwatched flicks. I'll try to tone it down in the future though. ;)

      Thanks again for checking out the site and I'm glad you're enjoying it.