Friday, October 27, 2006
This odd little George Romero offering has fun never fully answering the question of whether the title character's a vampire or not. We first see our whisper-thin protagonist on a train, where he sneaks into a woman's compartment and shoots her up with sedatives. While her panic slowly turns to unconsciousness, Martin barely manages to control her struggles and earnestly tells her it's okay, she's just going to fall asleep. Once she does, he gets both of them naked and poses her arms around him for a bit, then cuts a much-longer-than-it-needs-to-be slash down her forearm and starts drinking.
Clearly, from this, we're dealing with some lonely nut who has to drug women senseless before engaging in any kind of sexual contact, and he also has delusions that he's a vampire. Or so you think.
When Martin exits the train he's greeted by an East European version of Colonel Sanders who's named Tata Cuda. Almost wordlessly, he guides Martin to his home, in which he suddenly turns with a baleful glare and utters "Nosferatuuuu." If Martin's crazy, then so is his extended family, for as cousin Cuda tells us, Martin is simply a relative afflicted by the family curse.
Shrink: Your father's been thinking he's a chicken for ten years? Why didn't you come to me sooner?
Son: We needed the eggs.
The bulk of this movie is a character sketch of Martin as he settles into his new life in a crappy Pittsburgh suburb. This take on the vamire legend is the opposite of most that you've seen, since it turns out being an immortal bloodsucker doesn't necessarily result in an accumulation of power and money. Instead Martin lives a drifter's life, passed around between distant family members and growing ever more cut off from the world around him.
In terms of abject horror this movie scores pretty low. The most chilling scene unfolds when one of Martin's victims turns out to have an unexpected man in the house; he's a much bigger guy, and considering Martin's slightness you might expect him to forget the whole thing. Instead we see how his years of experience enable him to calmly improvise a deft solution to the problem.
Beyond that, there's just something bleak and appealing about this movie. Martin's combination of childlike honesty, quiet intensity and general spaciness make up a pretty layered performance, and the end result is quite charming. All this in a context of 70's guerilla flimmaking that has its own special vintage -- look, it's a young, moustache-free Tom Savini! Need I say more?