4th Act Film Collective, a new cinema blog, just posted an in-depth retrospective on Fessenden’s HABIT. Written by Craig Ian Mann, the piece is part review/part remembrance.
Written, directed and edited by Fessenden, Habit is a truly sad, mesmerising and ultimately brilliant film about addiction, urban alienation and, yes, vampirism. But despite its inherent genre trappings, a documentary aesthetic – reminiscent of George A. Romero’s Martin – lends Habit a certain sense of realism. This is a beautiful if depressing snapshot of New York in the mid-1990s; a place where anything seems possible, but it is all too easy to get lost amongst the neon and noise. The film’s naturalism only renders its artistic flourishes more effective; Fessenden often cuts away from his characters, laying the soundtrack of their poignant dialogue over a montage of New York’s late-night city streets. And when the film does become truly surreal, – such as a scene that may or may not be a dream sequence in which Anna, withered and rotting, visits Sam in the middle of a fitful sleep – Habit’s grainy, choppily edited style only renders these moments all the more terrifying.
And Habit is terrifying. Perhaps it is not frightening in a way we might traditionally expect of a horror film – there are no jump scares here, and only a few scenes genuinely designed to shock. Instead, it is a chilling portrait of self-destruction. Fessenden’s is the stand-out performance; a realistic, unnerving portrait of a spiral into the abyss brought to life by a man who has clearly witnessed the devastating results of addiction first hand. And it is his ascent into the bottle that is really at the heart of Habit’s horror. A debate exists as to whether Anna is or is not a literal vampire but, honestly, the answer doesn’t matter; the true blood-sucker here is alcohol, a substance that slowly drains the life from Sam until he is a husk of his former self with nothing left to do but drink himself to death. Snaider’s uncaring vamp is simply along for the ride.