Martin sedates women with a syringe full of narcotics and then slices their wrists with a razor blade so he can drink their blood. Martin, who comes to live with his uncle and niece in the dying town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, has romantic monochrome visions of vampiric seductions and torch-lit mobs, but it is impossible to tell how seriously he takes them.
His uncle, the superstitious old Tada Cuda, treats Martin like an Old World vampire and tries unsuccessfully to repel Martin with strings of garlic bulbs around the home and a crucifix. Martin mocks these attempts and says bitterly, "There's no real magic... ever." Martin strikes up a friendship with a lonely housewife, turning into a full-fledged affair with tragic results. The tone of the film is sad and filled with longing and unfulfilled desire—rather different for the traditional vampire movie, cliches of which are parodied in Martin's dreams and in the mock-silent-film scene where Martin terrorises Cuda in a children's playground. The ironic ending both gives a new twist to the traditional fate of vampires and suggests that Martin's disease is more widespread than we might care to imagine.