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Fessenden's "Habit"

By Indiewire | Indiewire November 17, 1997 at 2:00AM

Fessenden's "Habit"
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Fessenden's "Habit"

by Andrea Meyer




Larry Fessenden has had a good year. First, he won the 1997 Independent
Spirit "Someone to Watch" Award. Then, after rave reviews at the Chicago
and LA International Film Festivals, his Lower Eastside
romance-slash-horror film "Habit" (which he wrote, directed, edited, and
starred in) opened this weekend at the Cinema Village.


Fessenden has been making films for over fifteen years; his works include a
video feature called "Experienced Movers", a series of "mockumentaries" made
with New York performance artist David Leslie called "The Impact Addict Tapes", a video documentary called "Hollow Venus: Diary Of A Go-Go Dancer",
and his first feature on film "No Telling". As an actor, Fessenden starred in
the critically acclaimed "River Of Grass" (1993) by Kelly Reichardt.


"No Telling" (1991), which Fessenden describes as "an intriguing naughty
little movie," thrusts the Frankenstein tale into the modern world to
explore the morality (or lack thereof) of modern scientific practices.
Harvey Weinstein of Miramax considered the film, eventually declaring it
too complicated a sale. Fessenden hypothesizes that his inability to sell
the film was due to the fact that "it is perhaps too didactic for American
audiences and doesn't have a monster movie ending." Largo Entertainment
bought the international rights and redubbed it "The Frankenstein Complex",
so Fessenden occasionally receives "a little check" for video or television
release abroad.


Made for $140,000, "Habit" appropriates elements of the horror genre to
explore addiction, intimacy, and madness. Sam (Fessenden), a restaurant
manager, is lonely and vulnerable after the death of his father and
break-up with his longtime live-in girlfriend. Rather than confront his
grief, Sam throws himself into a compulsive affair with Anna (Meredith
Snaider), a mysterious beauty he meets at a Halloween party. As he stumbles
through his alcoholic blur of a life, Anna's sometimes violent and always
enigmatic behavior, coupled with his own suffering health, lead him to
wonder if Anna is a vampire.


Anna is the perfect woman, "what every guy supposedly wants." She
constantly flatters Sam. She's a total sexpot. She doesn't criticize his
drinking. She never talks about herself -- it's all about him. Fessenden
calls Anna a "quick fix kind of creature, in essence superficial and
totally seductive." He stresses the social implications of Sam's
infatuation. As Sam neglects the elements of his life that require
commitment and offer real comfort in favor of great sex, so our society
favors all that is quick and easy: drugs, meaningless sex, "all the fluff
on TV." The film asks the question, "are we going to buy into a quick fix
thrill ride or deal with reality in all of its complexity and
disappointments?"


Gen X flick meets classic Hollywood horror film. If it were
straightforward, the combination could signal a sure hit. But "Habit" is
frustrating, challenging and ambiguous. "Habit" is being marketed as a
downtown love story about a guy who drowns his grief in the thighs of an
anonymous dream girl and ends up being consumed by this affair and
eventually losing his mind. There are no vampires in the ad.


Fessenden prefers to "play down the vampire thing and make it a fun
surprise." He doesn't feel that "Habit" should be lumped with "Nadja", "The Addiction", or the more mainstream vampire films out there. He says that
unlike the others, "I never really resolve if there was a vampire, so
you're left with all this luggage of 'we know vampires don't exist, so what
the hell was that all about?

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