I like the horror pictures. I used to just review them because I saw them, and what else am I supposed to do, you know? I already saw it, might as well Write the fuckin review you know.
But after a while I started to really like this stuff. I mean everybody likes monsters and shit. I started to watch all the Dracula pictures, all the Chucky pictures, everything. I started to seek them out.
I heard alot about this director, Larry Fessenden, who is some new york independent filmatist who has made a trilogy of pretentious horror movies – NO TELLING, HABIT, and WENDIGO which got some good reviews when it played at a film festival here but I haven’t seen it.
First I checked out NO TELLING which is supposedly an “eco-horror” film and is about some dude doing weird experiments on animals. I was impressed when I heard that he never graduates to experimenting on humans – that made it sound more realistic than most horror movies and that could be creepy. Unfortunately I only made it about 8 minutes into the movie before the community theater style acting made me throw in the towel. As far as I saw, the movie was just about couples standing around in a field talking about relationships.
So I gave up on Larry Fessenden, but I forgot he directed HABIT and ended up taking it home by accident. This time I got all the way to the end. (That’s nothin to brag about though, I just watched EARTH VS. THE SPIDER starring Dan Ayckroyd.)
Overall I think I’d have to say I liked HABIT. Basically it’s the story of some dude right after he broke up with his girlfriend, who gets real drunk at a party and meets a new girl named Anne. She looks kinda like Winona Ryder or a cuter Ricki Lake during her petite elf period. Before he knows it she’s givin him a hand job in the park and she bites his lip and sucks the blood. But he thinks nothing of it and keeps dating her and you can see where it would go from there.
The basic storyline is your generic vampire tale but the approach is a little different. Mr. Fessenden is obviously going for a very naturalistic feel and with the exception of a few subjective type shots there is almost nothing clearly supernatural or stylized. It’s mostly like one of those movies about these fuckin egomaniac new york artist types and their dating scene and troubles with alcohol and all that shit. You know that type of movie.
All the usual vampire shit is here, and some of it works real well in this context, like when Anne says “Aren’t you going to invite me in?” It seems like what she would say even if she wasn’t a vampire and could enter a household without permission. And of course they got the daylight, no reflection in the mirror, garlic, etc. And you get all the little double entendres where the dude says she has “a timeless quality,” etc. Alot of it pounds you over the head but I think in general you could say the movie is subtle about its vampire story. Because there really is no overt mention of vampires until the very end and the final showdown takes up maybe ten minutes or less. Before that it’s just a relationship drama with blood.
There’s also at least one obscure vampire detail, that she gets preoccupied by knots. I hope they bring that one back in DRACULA 2000 II.
The casting of the vampire is pretty good. She looks much too innocent and cute to be a bloodsucker but during the sex scenes she turns believably animalistic. She still seems pretty real, though, enough that you believe he might be staying with her even if she didn’t give him the hand job.
The main dude is pretty good too and wouldn’t you know it, he’s played by Larry Fessenden himself. At this point I’ve got to mention that this guy seems pretty full of himself and the movie is extremely pretentious. The biggest threat to the realistic feel of the movie is the dialogue, which often wanders off into preachify mode. The characters make little speeches about philosophy or the corruptive effect of pop culture on our society or what have you. Larry has to make a speech about his late father and he talks about how people said he wasn’t an optimist, but he really was, and he believed this and that and blah blah fuckin blah. Larry is obviously just talking about Larry because this has no story or thematic purpose. You want to nudge Larry, tell him to drop the bullshit. Too often the characters have obnoxious conversations that must be the independent filmatist’s idea of sharing the interesting conversations he’s had with his friends. We don’t fuckin care, man.
It’s not as bad as those first 8 minutes of NO TELLING though, and the acting is better, so I was able to give him some leeway. Good thing it wasn’t until the end that I saw the credit that says “Writer, Director, Sound and Picture Editor: Larry Fessenden”. Or that he plays saxophone in the band that does alot of the music. Or that he narrates the trailer and describes himself as “Larry Fessenden, the acclaimed director of underground cult films.” He also narrates a semi-interesting but pretentious making of documentary where he mentions the following directors: Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Copolla, Les Blank, Roman Polanski, John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese, who he refers to as “Marty Scorsese,” maybe because he worked with him, playing the role of “cokehead” in BRINGING OUT THE DEAD.
I wouldn’t compare HABIT to anything by those directors, but it does seem to be going for some of the same things George Romero did better years ago in MARTIN. That was another realistic character drama in which one character sucks blood and may or not be a supernatural vampire. It also reminds me of DRILLER KILLER where Abel Ferrara directed himself as a similarly obnoxious new york artist type, although HABIT is better made and has more sympathetic characters.
Although HABIT is only partly successful, I do admire what Larry was going for. He may not be inventing a new genre, but at least he’s trying something pretty uncommon, in a genre where retreads are considered pretty acceptable. I’d rather see someone try something really pretentious than just cash in on whatever the horror fad is these days. Unless it’s NADJA, man, give me I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER over NADJA any day. HABIT is pretty decent, though. We’ll see about WENDIGO. thanks.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.