Habit (1996)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Erotic Thriller, Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |  
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This well-crafted independent horror film from writer-director Larry Fessenden is one of the better films to emerge from the '90s "revisionist" movement in vampire cinema, which also included Abel Ferrara's The Addiction and Michael Almereyda's Nadja. Fessenden also plays the lead as Sam, a disillusioned part-time bartender in New York's East Village who half-heartedly tries to escape a life of disappointment and failure by immersing himself in alcohol. His woes include the recent death of his father, a respected archaeologist, and a trial separation from girlfriend Liza (Heather Woodbury), who still loves him but refuses to be drawn into his world of alcoholic nihilism. At a wild Halloween party thrown by his two best friends, Nick (Aaron Beal) and Rae (Patricia Coleman), Sam meets a lovely dark-eyed woman named Anna (Meredith Snaider), with whom he's instantly infatuated. The two engage in idle conversation, leaving together when the festivities die down. A mutual attraction seems evident, but Anna disappears, leaving Sam a bogus telephone number. Thus begins a game of romantic cat-and-mouse, consisting of brief and steamy encounters separated by long periods of uncertain waiting for Sam. During the first of these encounters, the two find themselves pursued by a pack of wolves in Central Park, which Anna seemingly repels with a motion of her hand. At their first moment of sexual contact, Anna bites Sam on the lip and licks the blood -- an act which causes Sam to pass out in ecstasy. Their sporadic clinches are often punctuated by similar bouts of bloodletting, and Sam begins to succumb to a desperate, all-consuming need for Anna. His paranoid behavior seems to be a product of his intensifying alcohol addiction ... but Sam begins to suspect his condition is actually the onset of vampirism, caused by Anna feeding on his blood. Despite suggestions that his sanity is in serious doubt, there are several hints that his suspicions may be well-founded. For instance, one of Sam's friends tells him of a wild one-night stand with a mysterious woman who sounds like Anna -- after which he disappears without a trace. Anna also seems to have difficulty entering Sam's apartment or standing near him when he's cooking with garlic. Later, an eerie moment occurs at a ceremony honoring Sam's father, when one of the professors spots Sam's lady friend and is overcome with dread. Fessenden keeps this premise deliriously ambiguous, casting doubt over what Sam is really experiencing (even when it seems obvious that Anna is preying on every one of Sam's friends) and continues to crank up the intensity until the startling and violent climax. The director uses his locations to remarkable effect, fashioning a nightmarish but strangely beautiful world with images like a red-lit Empire State Building, a disorienting ride on a Coney Island Ferris wheel, and a furtive nude photo shoot on Wall Street. As an actor, Fessenden is appealing as Sam, an intense and creative thinker with a crumbled sense of self-worth, a shaky grip on reality and some missing front teeth. Far more horrifying than countless effects-laden vampire films, this surreal yet wholly convincing work merits multiple viewings.



attraction, cat-and-mouse, lover, relationship, seduction, sex, suspicion, alcoholism, vampire, amnesia, fantasy