Horror movies which encourage audiences to sympathise with the monster are nothing new, but that paradox has rarely been more intelligently explored than in Romero’s gritty anti-horror masterpiece, Martin.
Amplas plays the title character, a lonely, wayward teenager in a decaying Pennsylvania mill town, whose elderly, religious-maniac cousin, Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) is convinced that the boy is, in fact, Nosferatu.
Although he looks barely twenty, both Martin and his cousin are of the belief that he’s actually 84 years old and a vampire.
Cuda wants to save Martin’s soul and destroy him but Martin is adamant that his condition is not due to a curse and that magic or religion can save him.
Meanwhile, he is allowed only to take victims outside of the city or be destroyed without salvation.
Cuda’s niece thinks the family traditions have “infected” Martin and is herself deteriorating under Cuda’s fanaticism.
In between stalking victims and drinking their blood (with the aid of syringes, razor blades, and pointy sticks) and calling in to a talk radio line, lonely Martin tries to reach out to similarly unhappy human beings.
Much of the film’s power stems from its unfashionable ideas about teenage wish-fulfilment and how young people respond to images of horror – Martin desperately wants to believe that he’s more than just another messed-up kid, his inner life depicted in a series of grandiose, hauntingly beautiful monochrome tableaux.
By balancing traditional vampire lore against medically certifiable psychosis, Romero keeps the horror grounded in nasty, messy reality – as he did in his Living Dead movies.
George A. Romero
J. Clifford Forrest Jr.