30 October 2006

Dream Double Bill # 17 ‘Martin’ and ‘The Addiction’

Or my personal thoughts on two films portraying modern day Vampires in America.

For the purpose of today’s Vampire Blog-a-thon I decided to put some thoughts down on what I consider to be the two most interesting modern day Vampire films.

‘Martin’ aka ‘Martin, the Vampire’ (British title)

Martin Madahas - “And that’s another thing about those movies; Vampires always have ladies, sometimes lots of ladies. Well that’s wrong too. You don’t need all that.”

Radio Talk Show Host “You don’t need all that?” [Laughs]

Martin – “No, you really don’t. I mean if the magic part was real and you could make ‘em do whatever you wanted to, well that would be different. In real life, in real life you can’t get people to do what you want them to.”

Martin may or may not be a Vampire. I don’t know it really matters to the viewer, certainly Tada Cuda (played by Lincoln Maazel in, according to IMDB his only ever film role) his elderly relative believes him to be one.

Martin appears to be lacking is the physical strength, charisma or fangs for a Vampire.
From earlier Vampire films we understand that garlic, exposure to the crucifix and the Vampires reflections are all things to be avoided, these do not seem to cause a problem for Martin at all. Nor does John Amplas who portrays Martin bear any resemblance to Bela Lugosi nor Max Schreck for that matter.

However he does however prefer to wear sunglasses during daylight, and lest I forget does have a taste for blood. Aside from this Martin, at least outwardly appears to be, what could be construed as a troubled young man, often seen spending long periods of time alone and without many friends. He is awkward in female company but through his errands develops a friendship and his first (for his partner) conscious sexual experience.

Is he a troubled loner or is he a 84 year old “Norsferatu” as Tuda asserts?
He confesses to a phone in radio show, whose presenter dubs him ‘The Count’ his penchant for blood. We see him sometimes melancholically kicking around the town of Braddock, PA, sometimes delivering groceries for Tada.

Tada -“Vampire! First I will save your soul, then I will destroy you!”

For me what struck me most about the film and why I liked it when I re-watched it again recently was this ambiguity, the tone of the film, the very mood of the film just comes together perfectly, I also like films that end unexpectedly. According to Romero it’s the favourite of all of his films..

It’s the concept of the acts rather than the visualisation which is so prevalent in modern horror films that is more shocking, contemplate if you will for a moment being drugged, feeling the needle pierce your body, you turn to Martin, as do his victims and he offers comfort by assuring you that you will not feel pain, will you even awaken? What is he going to do to you? For me at least that’s were the fear comes in and why it’s my favourite of all of Romero’s films too.

‘The Addiction’

I first saw this on its theatrical release hot on the heels of ‘The Funeral’. I still liken ‘The Funeral’ to ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘The Addiction’ to ‘Rumblefish’. Both were made and released back to back and the second films by both Coppola and Ferrara were both shot in crisp black white whilst their first and generally wider seen and better known shot in colour.

If ‘Martin’ gives us suburban America in the mid to late 70’s ‘The Funeral’ gives us early to mid 90’s Manhattan. The youth in ‘The Addiction’ is the urban street savvy, hassling Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) and her friends on the street.

Whereas Martin doesn’t outwardly display signs of being a Vampire, philosophy student Kathleen has all the mirrors in her apartment covered up, she also has to wear sunglasses and in one beautifully lit sequence in the film when she steps out of college into the bright sunshine has to retract into the shadow immediately. If we are not sure if Martin is a Vampire we are certain that Kathleen is. Where Martin may be 84 and Romero uses flashback sequences to show him remembering being pursued, Kathleen is just beginning her new eternal life.

Kathleen – “What do you want from me?”

Piena – “No! What do you want from me? You came after me, you took my hand you tried to force me into some alley. Isn’t that how it went?

[Angrily] You think you understand things? You know nothing! You understand nothing!

I’ll show you what you are. I’ll teach you what hunger is.”

If Kathleen is the urbanite student victim turned predator then Piena is her newest teacher, of sorts. He provides amongst other things reference points in modern literature for her understanding of her new lifestyle, he also tells her that he has his hunger under control.

Kathleen [Voice over] – “There is a dull nature to the addiction. It satisfies the hunger which evil engenders but it also dulls our perceptions so we are helped to forget how ill we really are. We drink to escape the fact that we’re alcoholics. Existence is the search for relief from our habit and our habit is the only relief we can find.”

Nicholas St. John and Abel Ferrara brilliantly place this Vampire tale against a back drop of New York and layer it with the horrors of genocide, questions of philosophy, concerns about AIDS and issues around addiction. For it’s New York setting, Kathleen’s admissions to hospital and subsequent diagnosis or rather non-diagnosis of her Vampire condition make this a bizarrely almost realist take on the Vampire film genre. It is very different in my view from something like ‘The Lost Boys’ or ‘The Hunger’ or even ‘Near Dark’, It’s a great film, perhaps one of my favourites of Ferrara’s.

Sit back, relax and enjoy today’s double bill.

Go to Film Experience for full list of contributors to today’s blog-a-thon, link.
IMDB entry for Martin, link.
Wikipedia entry for Martin, link.
Locations used in Martin, link.
IMDB entry for The Addiction, link.

Wikipedia entry for Vampire fiction, link.
Wikipedia entry for Vampire, link.


Tuwa said...

I see we had very similar takes on Martin, though I think your post probably benefits from the concision mine lacks. ^_^

Martin and Rabid wouldn't be a bad double bill either.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a new vampire series check out ETERNAL VIGILANCE by Gabrielle S. Faust! :)

Unknown said...

I totally LOVE The Addiction. It's grim and scary in parts, but mostly I just loved the skewering of the ridiculous politics that go on in grad school. I CHEERED at the ending. EAT 'EM! EAT 'EM ALL!

Larry Fessenden's "Habit" is another wonderful modern-day vampire story. It's one of my favorite movies.