Martin is a young man who goes to live with his much older cousin due to the untimely death of his parents. His cousin is an extreme Lithuanian Catholic who believes their family lineage is cursed with Nosferatu and Martin is one of three living relatives cursed to be a vampire. Martin also believes this but is angered by the beliefs of his cousin Cuda who believes Martin to be weakened by the cross, garlic and has magic abilities. Martin indeed has an uncontrollable thirst for blood that plagues him but he has no powers. His victims are beautiful women that triggers a sexual reaction from Martin who remembers a time long ago in a much older time where he was in love and discovered his disease, he injects his victims with something to make them sleep and he cuts their wrists with a razor blade drinking their blood. Cuda researches vampire lore and asks other priests who might know how to deal with demons to "Save Martin's Soul. Then Destroy him." Martin must figure a way to control his urges and convince his cousin that what is believed in the family lore is not true to Martin's condition. However throughout the film you question whether Martin is truly a vampire or a disturbed young man whose family made him into a real monster.
John Amplas as Martin is one of the most genius castings of all time. Amplas evokes a sad and sympathetic tone for the character with simple facial expressions and for a young man at the time his eyes give off the weight of a man who has been around for a long time and seen far too many things as Martin himself says he is actually eighty four years old. To go from these scenes of sadness to truly horrifying systematic cold movements to stalk his prey show signs of a psychopath. As each victim he finds he must get naked with before he feeds on them, showing a truly disturbed young man. The way John Amplas portrays Martin in these scenes overwhelmingly shows that he is not really a vampire but is indeed insane, but George give us genius flashback scenes to throw us off. Several times when Martin goes in for an attack or is confronted with some sort of prejudice against him from his cousin Cuda especially, Martin flashbacks to a very olden time with very gothic looking structures and turn of the century clothing and technology wherein Martin is being attacked by villagers or falls in love with a beautiful women he accidentally kills all set in black and white almost like a Universal Monster movie. My favorite scene in which this happens is when Cuda brings in a priest randomly when Martin is sitting at home alone and Martin flashbacks to when his family discovers his condition and they bring in a priest who speaks to him in Latin and his family is armed to the teeth with religious weapons to cast out the demon in him. It's a very intense scene that plays perfectly with Martin's reactions when he is a young man in the old country as opposed to him now as an old man in a young man's body. "There is no magic." is a great line from Martin. Where most films in a sense glamorize what it could be like to be a vampire, Martin is insulted by it, he has a disease and there is nothing fun about it nor is there anything dangerous about him when he isn't taken by the hunger.
This is just such a rare gem of a movie that Romero legendarily had an almost three hour cut of the film, but was cut down to the crisp 98 minutes which flowed the narrative nicely, pleased Romero and kept all the heart Romero wanted in the film. Romero also really shows off his ability to keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense as Martin chases down his play smartly through the movie. The best scene was when Martin stalks one woman and waits for her husband to go away for a weekend and sneaks into the house late one night with his syringes ready to take her out only to discover another man in the house which the woman is cheating on her husband with. This set up not only makes it difficult for Martin but difficult for the two victims as Martin immediately tranquilizes the man and the couple are afraid to call the police for fear of people discovering their forbidden relationship. Where most movies a tranquilizer immediately knocks out someone, this one takes its time and we watch the man run around trying to catch Martin in the house as he slowly gets groggier and groggier as Martin must outsmart him and the women to take them out. It's an intense sequence and it really keeps you invested in the action on the screen.
It's a really great dramatic serial killer look into the world of what was then a modern day vampire in a normal American society that never truly tells us if the idea of the vampire is true or not but the monster living inside Martin himself is all too real whether it is supernatural or created by the hysteria of his family or not. A great group effort from the usual Romero suspects and you even get Romero himself in the role of a Priest who has some great lines about the state of the church as well as some funny lines about horror coming from a priest. Plus the first novice gore FX from Savini himself that ends the movie with an awesome looking real effect that shocks you as the way Romero edits the film you don't expect coming and are thrust into Savini violence. A great film from a true horror master that puts the vampire genre in its head!
21 Day's till Halloween! Halloween!
21 Day's till Halloween! Silver shamrock!