Lauded indie filmmaker Larry Fessenden hacked 40 minutes out of his anti-genre vampire picture, Habit (1997, 112 minutes), but he shoulda kept right on cutting. The flick's STILL tedious and labored. But ya gotta respect his intention to inject the horror elements and obvious metaphor of vampirism into the gritty reality of New York City street life. If only it worked. Instead the film comes off more as a transparent aping of Taxi Driver, with a big ol' dallop of the Jim Carrey/Lauren Hutton blood-sucker sex comedy, Once Bitten. Only Habit isn't funny, or even good.
The movie: Sam (played by the writer/director) is a wild-haired, gap-toothed drip who, at all times, looks like he just got turned away from the methadone clinic. His girlfriend has left him, having finally realized he'll never love her more than hooch. During a friend's Halloween party, Sam is approached by the sultry Anna (Meredith Snaider), which begins a series of tawdry nocturnal encounters. She proves her manual dexterity in Battery Park. There's a post-car accident quickie in an emergency room storage closet. Even roof-top howling at the moon, or something like that. During each of these diddling sessions, Anna kinks up by biting Sam's pasty-white flesh and sucking his blood. Only he doesn't find anything odd about this, even when he keeps waking up in strange places with his pants around his ankles. All sounds pretty interesting, right? Well what's danged boring is all the protracted scenes with Sam drinking, wondering why Anna keeps disappearing, trying to hook up with his ex again, and being lectured by his friends about he looks just awful (as if he were even remotely healthy BEFORE meeting the vampiress).
Notables: Six breasts. Two corpses. Puking. Multiple diddling. Plate licking. Neck munching. One mutilated cat. Bath-tub petting party. Towel-rod as stake. Carnies. Gratuitous urination.
Quotables: Sam on his boozing, "Actually, I'm committing suicide on the installment plan." Fessenden's groaner of a sermon as delivered by Sam's buddy Nick, "Vampirism is EVERYWHERE. It is hiding in our hearts, Sam. It is at the bottom of a bottle, or a needle in the arm. It is 500 channels of insipid cultural drivel. The advertising and gluttony. Draining us of our ability to think. It is the insidious ... bargains we make EVERYDAY. The little compromises that eat at our souls. But believe me, it's not to be found embodied in Anna. She's not that deep."
Time codes: "I'm Batman!" (9:18). Love at first bite (26:20). Lesbian tongue rasslin' (1:14:00). Sam stocks up on protection (1:38:28).
Audio/Video: Speckled fullframe transfer. The screen is filled with tiny dots, although while watching the film, they're easily ignored -- and may even add to the gritty feel of the flick. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 that serves the copious amounts of bar-band music fairly well.
Extras: About 20 minutes of "Making of" footage nauseatingly narrated by the filmmaker. It's grossly over-written, stilted and pompous -- which might actually be hilarious, if folks don't buy into Larry's ego-stroking. Music video for "Save You From Yourself" by Just Desserts (Fessenden plays sax). Cast bios. Theatrical trailer. Animated menus with audio.
Final thought: Interesting concept. But despite the blood-letting and sleaze, this arduous story is strictly for art-house masochists. Rent it.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.