I finally earned my complete George A. Romero fanboy stripes last night. You’d think that years of constant re-watching of his entire Dead/zombie films would be enough to give me pride, but that was sadly not the case. Romero, the independent-minded filmmaking legend, has a cluster of non-zombie flicks that are mostly regarded as unheralded classics. Cult favorites, if you will. The Crazies (1973) is one that I’ve long admired, but other than that one I’d inexplicably slacked off on seeing his other works.
The reconciler that I am, I’ve put the remainder of his filmography into the top five of my Netflix Queue, and last night the Romero film fest kicked off with 1977’s Martin, a film that many consider to be the man’s best. A tall order, considering this is the guy responsible for the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), two undeniable horror masterpieces. Romero himself has even said that Martin is his personal favorite of his movies, which explains why I made it the first one on my list.
The verdict: strange with great mood, but not entirely effective for me. There’s a lot of great things going on in Martin; for one, the way Romero deconstructs the entire vampire/Nosferatu mythology is fascinating. The title character is a quiet, socially-awkward 20-year-old with a penchant for draining the blood of women, after drugging them to sleep. His older uncle represents the Van Helsing character, the skeptic who believes Martin to be Dracula himself. It’s confirmed, in more words or less, that Martin is indeed a bloodsucker, though he constantly denies it to others. It’s just that, the usual defenses against vampires are futile around him——garlic has no effect, he’s visible in mirrors, and religious crosses are yawned at.
What Martin lacks is a constant thread, though, espcially toward the end. The final 15 minutes feel like a loose string of scenes edited together, leading up to a predictable (but thankfully gory and hardcore) last shot that comes out of left field. The film, at times, seems more like a collection of Romero’s ideas rather than a fleshed-out narrative; his outline, or treatment, instead of a full-on script. His ideas are strong on their own, the sum of a film’s part being greater than its whole.
Romero is such a great master of tension, though, that Martin never falls from interest. The picture has a steady macabre that’s forceful, a lingering bleakness rising shotgun alongside the overpowering notion that Martin can turn ghoulish serial killer at any moment, which is a testament to the performance of actor John Amplas. The best of the film’s stalk-and-drain sequences it the reason for this post, a Scene of Mine. Where Martin breaks into an attractive local woman’s home, expecting to only see and murder her, but an unanticipated booty call of her’s spoils the fun. Well, adds to it, actually. You’ll have to fast-forward a bit through the first Youtube clip, and continue at the start of the second. [Scene, in two parts, after the jump]: (more…)
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