Writer’s note: This is something I originally wrote *mumble mumble* years ago for a class on horror cinema, and it is presented with minimal editing. I don’t normally make a habit of posting online things I have written for academic purposes, but with today being George A. Romero’s birthday I thought it might be nice to share something about my favorite of his films, Martin (1977).
Cinematic vampires are, perhaps even more than other monsters, defined by rules. These rules dictate all aspects of their monstrous behavior. It is therefore expected in a vampire film that the creature will adhere to the regulations previously established. Vampires drink blood, can only function at night, can possess hypnotic or seductive abilities, and often display a connection to bats and other creatures of the night. They were often (but not always) suave and foreign, as epitomized by Bela Lugosi (Dracula, 1931) and Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, 1958). This was the state of the vampire subgenre in the 1970s. The vampire was the mysterious foreign other, whose lust and appetites were an invasion of behaviors and desires repressed by modern society. In George A. Romero’s Martin (1978), the title character subverts virtually every aspect of what is to be expected from a vampire film. While Martin is most certainly a monster, the film refuses to demonize the character or his actions; by complicating the audience’s sympathies the film turns society itself into that which is threatening.