I hate vampire movies. They aren't scary, they aren't cool, and the whole concept is boring. Vampires are like sexy zombies that aren't gross and violent. I just can't get behind that. I want my monsters to be hideous. Lacking that, I want my villains to be extremely violent, leaving hallways full of gore behind them as they pursue that one last girl.
However, every time I watch Martin, I can't help but to be impressed with it. This was George Romero's first horror movie after the classic The Night of the Living Dead, and it is absolutely amazing.
We open with a train speeding through the night. A young boy sneaks into some woman's cabin, holding a kit complete with syringes and other things. He bursts in to find her in the restroom. Waiting patiently by the door, he strikes the minute she steps into the room, injecting her with something. "I won't hurt you. It's so you'll fall asleep. So you won't feel anything!" he explains, though she is of course panicking. They struggle and she eventually succumbs to the drug, whereupon the young man slits her wrists with a razor and starts drinking her blood. This young man is Martin and he may be a vampire.
Martin has been sent to Philadelphia to live with his insane cousin Cuda, who upon meeting the young boy tells him, "I will save your soul. Then I will destroy you." Interestingly, while Cuda is an old man Martin appears to be extremely young- under twenty definitely. At first you will think, "that makes no sense" but trust me, it will be explained to you later.
Cuda escorts Martin from the train, hissing "nosferatu" at him. When they arrive home, Martin meets cousin Christina, who is in some kind of unhappy relationship with Arthur, who due to the poor economy in the area is unable to pursue his dream of becoming an auto mechanic. Cuda has set up his house with all the traditional anti-vampire stuff: crosses, garlic, what have you. None of it has any effect of Martin, who at one point corners a cowering Cuda in his bedroom, takes a dramatic bite of garlic and spits out, "There is no magic."
Cuda continues to antagonize Martin, while Martin is content to adjust to his new neighborhood. He works in Cuda's shop delivering groceries, and eventually meets up with lonely housewife Ms. Santini, who is really lonely. It turns out there are a lot of lonely housewives in this neighborhood, and the interesting thing is that this is not just a means to provide Martin with victims. A decent portion of the script concerns how the economy has ruined the neighborhood and sometimes it feels like all the vampire stuff is secondary to this. In fact, Romero spends a lot of his time behind the camera showing us slow shots of various run down buildings. The town is as much a character in this as Martin or Cuda is.
So this is a really fascinating movie. I find it a little hard to review, first of all because it is so good, and second of all because in my reviews if I mention the name of a movie I bold it and this is really strenuous since the title of the movie is also the name of the main character. There aren't any stupid lines to make fun of, and there aren't really any plot holes to point out. If I really want to be mean I could mention how the flashbacks that Martin experiences seem pretty cheesy, but they have their reason for being in the movie.
Martin is a fantastic horror film that is not afraid of taking its time to show you what it wants you to see, and on top of that you get an amazing ending that comes at you suddenly, but you definitely won't feel cheated or tricked. The best vampire movie I have ever seen.