vampire movie? Admittedly, I wasn't too enthusiastic about viewing this one, the
tale of, yes, a vampire. It's a good thing I did, though. Courtesy of the
multi-talented Larry Fessenden, HABIT turned out to be one the best films
of 1997, accomplishing what so many others have failed to achieve: breathing new
life into a tired genre.
Writer/director/editor/star Larry Fessenden has
been around for quite some time, having created such NYC-set no-budgeters as
HOLLOW VENUS and NO TELLING. The experience has clearly paid off with HABIT, not
only in the extremely deft filmmaking, but also in Fessenden's acting. His
performance as Sam, the all-purpose loser, is one of the film's most effective
aspects. You (like me) may have missed this film when it played its extremely
brief theatrical run, but it's out on video/DVD now, so you have no more
Thankfully, HABIT'S storyline doesn't play out in a
traditional manner. The first half of this nearly two-hour work is essentially a
character study focusing on Sam, a thirty-something restaurant manager and
full-time alcoholic. Recovering from a failed relationship, he meets the strange
and unpredictable Anna. Her quirks include unexplained disappearances and a yen
for drinking blood. Naturally, Sam begins to suspect that she may be a vampire.
Worse, he thinks she may have infected him...
Until HABIT, the combination of New York City and
vampires has been a deadly one, always seeming to bring out the artiest in
filmmakers (as in near-unwatchable pretension fests like NADJA and THE
ADDICTION). While subverting convention at every turn, HABIT is most definitely
not an art film, but a horror movie with all the trimmings.
So assured is Fessenden's direction that the
story's colossal shift in tone…from the seemingly mundane world of the first
half to the shadowy and hallucinatory one of the second…never feels the
slightest bit forced. In addition, the jittery camerawork and near-constant jump
cuts seem entirely appropriate. Mention must also be made of the judicious use
of real NYC locations. Reminiscent at times of the early films of Martin
Scorsese, Fessenden nevertheless manages to imbue the sleazy tenements and dark
alleyways with an ambience all his own.
Glass Eye Pix
Director/Writer/Editor: Larry Fessenden
Producer: Dayton Taylor
Cinematography: Frank DeMarcoCast: Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider, Aaron
Beall, Patricia Coleman, Heather Woodbury, Jesse Hartman