It’s easy to be a vampire in a town full of dead people, isn’t it!
Written By: George A. Romero
Directed By: George A. Romero
After I finished watching Martin I was talking to a fellow cinephile about the film. He mentioned that he felt that it was at times inept and sluggish. After thinking for a bit I told him he was completely right. However, unlike him I think the ineptitude and sluggishness were on purpose to tie into the two main themes George A. Romero wants to tackle. Martin isn’t a film that looks slick, but it’s oh so slick in the way it handles its themes.
The sluggishness ties into the idea of suburban death. More pointedly, the fact that the suburbs are a place where life ceases to exist and dreams go to die. There’s no chance for a youth in the suburbs of Martin, no chance at all for someone to flourish when every single element of suburban life is stacked against them. The horror of Martin isn’t in the silly vampirism, but in what the suburbs represent. They are the death of youth, Martin, the character, is the product of a society that doesn’t believe in the next generation. He’s been pushed into a corner by the suburbs, and at the same time he’s been given a buffet of targets for his homicidal tendencies. In the suburbs no one is going to notice a few dead bodies, because everyone is already dead on the inside.
Martin, again the character, isn’t free of problems himself. His attacks, and his general interactions with people, reveal another key problem in 1970s society. The character of Martin is inept, he’s a feeble vampire, and a feeble man. When he confronts women they easily overpower him and he has to struggle to exert his will over them. The male of the 1970s has become impotent. Because society has held them back and not allowed them to grow and flourish the 1970s male are a neutered people. When Martin attacks his victims it’s the same as a man fumbling around with a girl and ejaculating well before the woman has achieved any level of pleasure. Martin’s impotence is our problem, because his ineptitude denies us the pleasure of a classically menacing killer.
Mr. Romero also does very interesting things with the concept of vampirism. He breaks down the myth, removes the magic, and presents the vampire as a weakling. It can still kill, just as an impotent male can still get his way through brute force, but it’s nowhere near as alluring as the classic myth. Vampirism in Martin isn’t something to be feared, it’s something to be pitied. It’s not sexy, nor is it glamorous. The life of a vampire is one of eternal frustration, challenges, and being weaker than those around you.
At times Martin sputters, but that’s mainly in the true lack of depth given to the female characters. That’s mostly forgivable though as Martin is a film about male weakness. Mr. Romero once again proves that he is capable of delivering top of the line social satire. Whether he’s using zombies or vampires, Mr. Romero is able to shine alight on the horrors of modern society. Inept and sluggish, that describes Martin in a nutshell, and that is truly horrific.