Written by John Edward Betancourt
When it comes to movie monsters, I have to be honest and admit that the Vampire is one of my least favorites out there. I'm not saying they're silly or stupid, it's simply that I have never found the characters scary quite frankly, the mysticism and everything that comes with them simply bores me. However, there was one Vampire story that I fully enjoy because of how radically different it is from other vampire tales, George A. Romero's Martin. Now I've reviewed this film before and made sure to watch it the other day to see how it has stood up to the test of time and take a fresh look at the film and its many themes and how they relate today.
There were three key things I noticed about this film and each one of them intertwine together in this story. The fact that we never know whether or not Martin is actually a vampire, what magic really means to us and how hard it is for some to separate fantasy from reality.
Now I say these all go together because they do, I mean, take a look at Martin himself. The family is believed to have a "curse" of vampirism in the family, but only Martin and his uncle seem to believe it. Martin sees his "affliction" as a bloodsucker to be a burden and doesn't believe in magic or the fantasy realm of the vampire while his uncle is completely the opposite. At no point and still to this day, can I figure out if Martin is an actual honest to God creature of the night, or if the family curse is nothing more than some weird medical affliction that goes so far back in the blood line that people thought it to be something more. Martin could suffer from a deficiency of some kind, one that clearly requires medical attention but someone in the family perhaps drank blood and felt better and off we go to the races.
Yet despite Martin's disbelief in magic and what it means, he creates it in his own way with the radio show he calls in on nightly and we see that continue on in the final minutes of the film. By believing that he is a vampire and that no magic exists because of this, the public quickly rallies to the opposite, thinking this modern day Dracula is something incredible and magical. But really the heaviest theme in this film is the blurred lines of fantasy and reality. With a public that firmly believes in Martin as some mystic creature, and his relatives, that is dangerous in its own right since it feeds the fantasy. Martin may be nothing more than mentally ill, but we will never know.
But, this is another fine Romero film that is of course ahead of its time. In many ways this simple tale speaks volumes to the current world around us where we still debate science versus religion and the unfortunate fact we still make decisions for people based on beliefs rather than facts. Heck the inability to decipher what's real and what's fantasy even extends to everyday lives as well. I've known folks who live and die by fictional characters' worlds in literature and film, and I've seen it keep them form leading healthy lives. Granted, it's only a few in that last example, but it's out there. More importantly I don't think anyone has ever asked George if that kind of subtle satire was intentional or not, since it's so front and center in the Dead saga, but it's there.
Either way, it's a cautionary tale when you look at it. One that forces you to really think about looking at the facts first before plunging head first into a myth or what you think may be the case and that means Martin remains one of Romero's finest pieces of work simply because the deeper meaning is buried well within a story about a monster that is really a man, or is it a man that is truly a monster? That question and the themes the movie presents make for a fantastic film and a wonderful ride after all these years.