HABIT - 1995
Glass Eye Pictures / Fox Lorber
Vampire flicks come and Vampire flicks go, but this is the first that ever put me to sleep. TWICE! Twice I've watched it and twice I started getting drowsy. I've seen far more entertainment in home slide shows!
To say that this is an incredibly dull movie leaves much open to debate, so let me
tell you why.
HABIT is first of all an independent release. Now I usually LOVE independent
Horror releases, as they tend to be far more entertaining than Hollywood generally has the talent to achieve.
This is not the case with HABIT.
When a director is lost with the story or doesn't know what they are doing, you'll be
watching shots of the main character walking over here, then over there,
then over to another place. You will find yourself staring at close-ups
of the character endlessly staring. The walking and the staring fills
time without advancing the story. Like overlong and pointless fights (i.e. THEY LIVE), nothing is happening
except running the film past the gate.
What HABIT does is give us these repetitive shots of the film's main character, Sam
(Larry Fessenden) staring out the window, staring at his room, staring at a crowd, or just plain staring.
Sam comes from a moderately well to do family. He has traveled the world with his
father who, as the movie opens, has just died. His girlfriend Liza (wonderfully
played by Heather Woodbury) also took this opportunity to leave
him as well.
Things are not going well in Sam's life and the director, (Larry
Fessenden again, he also wrote this mess) is without a clue as
how to express Sam's sorrow, loss, and general ennui other than: Just
Keep The Camera On Me As I Stare.
Still, Sam seems to have some inheritance which allows him to live modestly without
worrying about work and doing pretty much as he pleases (he occasionally manages a bar). He doesn't seem to wash, shave, brush his teeth, clean
his clothes, change his clothes or have any interest in his life what so ever. In addition, he is also an alcoholic with a penchant for beating up his girlfriends when he gets drunk... and he's always drunk.
This apparently makes him a "Chick Magnet" as the three major women characters
in the movie have a current or past relationship with him that they hope
to nurture, re-ignite or still yearn for. Fessenden has written this dross
with himself as the spoiled and jaded lover and the desire of all the
main women characters. Sam is an alcoholic and tired of life. His life
onscreen tells us this, but why Fessenden chose to add "stud"
to Sam's character makes no sense unless it was just a personal ego thing.
Sam is way out of character as a "lover"; damn hard for an audience to believe but hey, its his movie!
Sam's clique of friends throw dull parties, live moderately well, eat well, have cottages
on the beach, and despise people who are trying to attain (for themselves) what Sam's friends inherited from their folks. One
scene shows Rae (Patricia Coleman) shouting out of her car and threatening a guy who is doing nothing more than talking
on a cell phone: his crime obviously being that he is trying to have the kind of money that they were born into. The hypocrisy of this scene is that the three friends are en route to their Beach Cottage (complete
with ranch) where they will celebrate Thanksgiving with plenty of food and drink and other friends who can afford this lifestyle. HABIT seems to admire the spoiled affluent who affect the imagined nobility
of poverty and slam the poor bastards who have to bust ass to get ahead;
all the while paying due lip service to the truly poor who appear to be
stuck in their rut forever. HABIT, set in New York city, portrays their liberal chic ethic with a cast that is all white skin.
There are plenty of shots of struggling people just being themselves in the act
of doing their jobs. They are never allowed to have a speaking part of
course, their simple grace comes through the silent wallpaper dressing they give this film.
Anywho . . .
At a lifeless Halloween party, Sam meets Anna (Meredith Snaider). She seems straightforward, real, and interested in Sam.
Sam in turn, finds himself curiously smitten with her. As the relationship
progresses, we see that she likes to cover herself in mystery, have rudimentary
sex with Sam, drink his blood, and leave him alone and defenseless, passed out in public.
The question of the movie is: is she or is she not a Vampire? Maybe she is just some
nutjob too screwy to hang with the goth crowd (well you may scoff, but I've met such people!). There are plenty of
scenes that throw the question either way since everything we see about
her is through Sam's perspective and he is drunk all of the time. The movie wants us to believe that she loves him, though HABIT is fashionable enough to have the de rigueur Sheridan Le Fanu CAMILLA scene. Anna attempts
a lesbian tryst with one of Sam's ex-girlfriends.
Just why Anna has fallen in love with Sam or why she would even prefer his blood
(maybe she loves the taste of Schlitz Malt Hemo') is a real mind bender and one that is difficult to believe. In case we didn't get it the first time, we are treated to repetitive scenes where Sam smokes
too much, drinks too much, is generally unaware of his surroundings, self-absorbed,
eats poorly and doesn't bathe. This is NOT a healthy guy! Surely
there is better blood in New York than his (there is! I'll vouch for it!)!
In addition to the Ingmar Bergman-style staring at nothing shots, there are plenty
of soft core sex scenes. Too bad the sex couldn't save this flick. The
original movie poster showed Sam and Anna screwing on the hallway floor
with their clothes on, which pretty much sums up all the sex scenes (see the pic I have with this review? Blockbuster and Hollywood
Video ain't going to carry your flick unless the tape cover is clean enough
for the wandering kiddies). While the first sex scene was a bit amusing (she leaves him to sleep off a handjob in
a park), the rest show that Sam is a dull and uninspired lover.
What do you expect from a drunk (this is why they left the sex scenes out of ARTHUR)? We're supposed to believe that
women are mad for Sam, desperate for him, still pine for him when he can't evens tay awake during sex? The New
York women I've had the opportunity to meet have far better taste than this.
Fessenden's writing, direction, and acting never allow his character of Sam to develop
or reach a stage of believability, much less the rest of his characters.
Especially the character of Rae. In one brief scene, Sam's best friend
Nick (Aaron Beall, one of two believable actors whose performance stands out from this flick), tosses up the fact
that Sam and Rae (Nick's girlfriend) were once lovers and that he sees how Rae still looks at Sam that "certain"
way. She still wants him. This fact is never explored other than to reveal
that Sam also used to get drunk and hit her. This out-of-the-blue, ham-handed
exposition is the only way we learn just what kind of person Sam is: oh,
and he stares off into space a lot.
Exceptions of Note:
No matter how bad a movie is, there are always tiny flashes, stars that
sparkle off the mud. There are two stand out performances worth mentioning
in this flick. Aaron Beall (Nick) and Heather Woodbury (Liza) are amazing in that they lend a believability to this movie that is sorely lacking otherwise. When Liza leaves Sam, her facial expressions as well as her body movements
tell you that her decision is tearing her apart inside. She just can't
put up with his self destructive lifestyle anymore. When she finds out
that Sam went right into another relationship without pause, the hurt
she expresses made me catch my breath, as if I was watching a real person go through real pain.
Aaron Beall is one of those actors that never seem to act. Every word, every move
that he makes appears to be entirely without method or rehearsing. Beall
makes his behavior throughout feel as if he is hearing all for
the first time, and his words and physical reactions aren't scripted but
ring true without apparent forethought.
These two people are all that is worth the expense of your money and time. Probably
the most unforgivable thing about HABIT is just how insipid it really
is. It doesn't scare or even chill; it bores! Bores you to sleep! For
not even having the saving grace of being unintentionally funny, this movie gets 1 Shriek Girl.
KILL IT BEFORE IT BREEDS!
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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