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Martin

Year: 1977
Production Co: Laurel Entertainment Inc
Director: George A Romero
Writer: George A Romero
Cast: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Tom Savini, George A Romero

This early George A Romero film has mostly been forgotten, overshadowed by the legacy of the Dead films. But it's actually the most subtextual of his films that I've seen. If you can look past the dodgy late 70s staging, acting and direction, it asks a fairly prescient question about the collision between science and religion in a way that's not unlike De Palma's rendering of Carrie .

We meet Martin – a young rapist and murderer – on a train on his way to live with his slightly unhinged uncle. He sees a girl he fancies, lets himself into her private cabin late at night, overpowers and drugs her, fucks her, slits her wrists and drinks her blood.

When he arrives at his Uncle's house, it seems them old man knows Martin's history and behaviour thanks to a family tree that pegs him with an inherited curse, and he goes as far as calling the shy young man Nosferatu and nailing garlic around the walls. He's determined to save Martin's soul, but his only condition is that the latter not take victims from their grimy Pittsburgh hometown.

Martin embarks on a tentative new life, befriending his female cousin and catching the eye of a lonely housewife, trying to hold off the thirst that gnaws at him.

The central question of the film is whether we're watching a supernatural horror film and Martin is really a hundred year old vampire, as he seems to believe, or whether it's a psychological horror film about a uniquely sick young man who's as dangerous as he is deluded.

And Romero uses the entire midsection to take his time in asking it. The only truly horror scenes are the opening attack scene and Martin's final fate at the hands of his Uncle.

Look beyond the ham and corn (Romero, despite his standing, has never been a great artistic director) and there's much more to see.

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