Martin

Martin

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Martin is teenager. Or perhaps he's 84. It all depends on whom you believe. He's going to stay with his cousin, the elderly Tada Cuda. Both of them will tell you he's a vampire. Tada Cuda makes no bones about his intention to save his soul and then destroy him. He considers him to be suffering from the family curse. But would it be closer to the truth to say that they're both suffering from the same family curse, a form of mental illness?

Martin is a film in which truth shifts around, and in which one gradually comes to wonder how much it matters anyway. Martin is a sweet young man, ably played by John Amplas. He's shy but personable, easy to sympathise with. He's sympathetic toward others, too, drugging the women he attacks so that they'll sleep and won't feel any pain as he drains their blood using razor blades and syringes. He means well. It's just that if he doesn't have blood then he starts getting shaky. He can't afford to let that happen. If he gets too shaky he might make a mistake and get caught.

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This is early Romero, made on a low budget. There are intermittent problems with the lighting and continuity, evidence of its limited means. Yet it is an incredibly powerful work. Its haunting, deceptively simple score and its use of black and white classic vampire movie 'flashbacks' contribute to gripping action sequences. The dialogue is sharp and observant. It offers plenty of astute social commentary, complemented by a wry sense of humour which, in its turn, draws us closer to its hero's madness. He's not naive about his circumstances - on some level, he gets the joke. But he's in the grip of an obsession which enables him to rationalise just about anything. As Soft Cell pointed out in their tribute song, "Martin needs his strange obsession to exist".

Martin will baffle many fans of the vampire genre, but it's a satisfying treat for horror aficionados nonetheless, and beyond that, it's simply a superb piece of film-making.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2008
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A young man who believes he's a vampire goes to stay with a relative who plans to destroy him.
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Director: George A Romero

Writer: George A Romero

Starring: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini

Year: 1977

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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