HABIT(director/writer/editor: Larry Fessenden; cinematographer: Frank de Marco; cast: Larry Fessenden (Sam), Meredith Snaider (Anna), Aaron Beall (Nick), Patricia Coleman (Rae), Heather Woodbury (Liza), Jesse Hartman (Lenny); Runtime: 112; Glass Eye; 1997)
“The film has a captivating style.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Habitis supposedly a vampire movie but, perhaps, it is more like a psychological thriller/love story. In the opening scene the director, writer, editor and star, Sam (Larry Fessenden), is walking down the streets of Greenwich Village in his Halloween costume, on his way to a friend’s party. He looks out of it as he stumbles along and looks around in disbelief at the others in costumes, not quite so sure if they are for real or a result of his inebriated state. We soon learn that he has a serious drinking problem. Yet, as drunk as he is, he has no trouble hooking up with an uninvited guest at the party, the sexy looking Anna (Meredith). At the same party his ex-girlfriend Rae (Coleman) arrives late, and appears upset that he pays little attention to her.
Sam is a “hip” NYC type, who acts nonchalant about getting robbed on the subway. He likes to party and work hard. Sam is employed as a manager in a Mexican restaurant and he just happens to be at a difficult stage of his life at the present moment, undergoing severe physical and mental changes. He is saddened by the recent death of his beloved father, whom he keeps seeing visions of. On top of that, his live-in girlfriend, Rae, has just split because she found it difficult to communicate with him because of his drinking problems and wasn’t sure if he could ever commit himself to loving her.
Sam’s relationship with Anna is purely sexual. She loves to bite into him, drawing some blood and sucking on it. They make love in strange places: on the roof of his building, in Battery Park, and even on his bed. Their relationship is odd. Anna won’t tell him anything about herself and surprises him by showing up to meet him when he doesn’t expect it, never staying with him during the day. Sam soon becomes violently sick after their sexual encounters and begins having troubling visions, as if she were a vampire. He tries to call out for help to his ex-girlfriend and to his best friend Nick (Aaron), but they don’t understand. The one person who he probably should have contacted is his father’s intellectual friend, who leaves him a message on his answering machine telling him that he wants to talk about Anna.
You feel Sam’s agony of living in such a crowded and impersonal city. Sam is cracking up and he is scared and though he has friends, he can’t reach them. Now whether these are psychotic attacks or if he is being attacked by a vampire, the film only provides you with elusive answers. But one thing is certain, something bad is happening to him.
What makes this vampire film different, is that it’s more about the psychological state of someone who is very confused about the new direction his life is taking him than anything else. Most other films of this kind seem so unreal in regards to any kind of personal underpinnings. The fright in them is from watching good filmmaking, not from seeing something that can possibly crop up in their daily lives or invade their inner being.
Fessenden has fully thought out the details of how a person can break down in front of us and not have any recourse to stop it. The film has a captivating style and playful mood that keeps you involved in the intelligently told story, which is rare for this genre.
REVIEWED ON 10/3/98 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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