This essay analyzes how George A. Romero, in his underrated psychological vampire film Martin, translates individual trauma (slow, process-based, unrecognized) into collective trauma (sudden, event-based, recognized) through a vocabulary of horror. The language of trauma spoken by Martin is not the one we expect from the horror film, with its traditional investments in fantastic spectacle. Instead, it is a language that combines horror’s fantastic vocabulary and documentary’s realist vocabulary in ways that undermine our attempts to distinguish between the two modes. Romero’s vision urges us to see catastrophe where we are accustomed to seeing only the mundane, and collective trauma where we routinely see only individual trauma. In Martin’s version of horror, the economic decline of Braddock, Pennsylvania, is paired with trauma connected to the Vietnam War and immigration. The film moves between these coordinates to revisualize the distinctions that divide the fantastic from the real as well as the individual from the collective.

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