Friday, August 6, 2010


Way back in my review of Wendigo I mentioned that I was eager to try some more of Larry Fessenden’s films, as he has a curiously absorbing directorial style, and a way of blending “real” life with the supernatural that one rarely finds elsewhere. With Wendigo’s immediate predecessor Habit here, he shows that Wendigo was not a fluke but a normally high-quality effort from one of the best horror directors around today.
The film stars Fessenden as Sam, a New York mess who spends all of his time in a drunken stupor. He still has a solid group of friends around him, but no doubt if they were better or more perceptive friends they’d have noticed that his alcoholism is no longer particularly functional. After an evening spent at a Halloween party, he wakes up the next morning riding a subway train, and is more upset about having had his wallet stolen than about the implications of being the type of person who passes out on subway trains. Into this imitation of life he encounters Anna (Meredith Snaider), a mysterious woman who sweeps him off his feet and promptly gives him his second grand addiction in herself. Unfortunately, she has a rather nasty habit herself of biting him and drinking his blood whenever they have sex, which leads to him becoming slightly suspicious of her…

The main thing that makes the movie so interesting is that it doesn’t really matter if she’s a vampire or not. It’s really about the complete self-destruction of Sam, through his drinking, his loneliness, and his overall paranoia. We do see a few incidents that appear to be clearly supernatural, but filtered through the lens of Sam’s mind we can’t really trust everything we see. Even his irritatingly theatrical best friend Nick (Aaron Beall) openly calls him out for being so ridiculous and thinking she’s undead, and he’s probably just feeling sick from a regular cold. I’d personally imagine any feeling of sickness would have more to do with all the alcohol he’s been drinking (and Nick, in his great helpfulness, simply tells him he needs to go get drunk and he’ll feel better), but that’s just me.

As Fessenden mentioned on one of the DVD features, he had been trying to make the film look and feel more like a Scorsese or Cassavetes film than a standard horror movie, which goes a long way toward explaining why it’s so easy to believe she’s not a vampire at all, and he’s just crazy. The film looks rough and raw like Cassavetes or early Scorsese (to where I wonder if it might have looked even better in black and white) and perfectly matches the isolation and paranoia on display. Fessenden’s role is completely fearless; few actor-directors would be so willing to make themselves look so wretched and pathetic. Indeed, all the actors do great jobs for such a low-budget film, though Nick’s character is so god damned annoying with his overdone theatrics that I started being a little glad I never got as far into the acting life as I once wanted.

While this is hardly a standard vampire tale, and those looking for a story with plenty of vampiric attacks will be a little let down (though not those hoping for some hot vampiric sex scenes, because damn), anyone who wants to see a nice, different sort of story, one that really delves into your head and doesn’t want to come back out easily, this is certainly one for you.

Rating: *** ½

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