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Fox Lorber presents
Habit (1997)

"A little love nick. Just a little bit at a time. Because I like you."
- Anna (Meredith Snaider)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: September 18, 2000

Stars: Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider
Other Stars: Aaron Beall, Patricia Coleman, Heather Woodbury
Director: Larry Fessenden

Manufacturer: Nimbus
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, strong sexual content, gore, language)
Run Time: 01h:52m:26s
Release Date: October 12, 1999
UPC: 720917513225
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-C-B+ B+

DVD Review

Habit tells the story of Sam (Larry Fessenden), a New Yorker newly separated from his longtime girlfriend Eliza (Patricia Coleman). He meets a mysterious girl named Anna (Meredith Snaider) at a Halloween party and the two begin an intense physical relationship, complicated by Anna's tendency to appear and disappear and Sam's paranoia about the disappearance of his friend Lenny (Jesse Hartman). Meanwhile, Sam tries to cope with the recent death of his father (Hart Fessenden) while his friends Nick (Aaron Beall) and Rae (Heather Woodbury) kibbitz and worry about his visibly deteriorating health.

Independent writer/director/star Larry Fessenden brings a refreshingly grounded approach to his ambiguous vampire tale, shot in gritty 16mm on location in New York City, often with minimal lighting and on-location sound. The unrated film doesn't shy away from nudity or blood, but it also doesn't exploit them; they're woven into the fabric of life within the story and seem perfectly appropriate. Fessenden employs in-camera effects, mirrors and simple makeup for the genre trappings, while focusing the film at large on the day-to-day lives of his characters. By keeping the supernatural elements secondary and briefly glimpsed, the filmmaker keeps his movie within its shoestring budget and also opens the whole nature of Anna's character to interpretation: Is she a vampire? Or are Sam's alcoholism and paranoia catching up with him?

Fessenden's cast includes a number of talented people active in the NYC theatre and music scene, most making their screen debuts in Habit. There's an improvisational character to much of the dialogue, some of which works and some of which doesn't, but the overall effect is very "real" and convincing. The film cares about its characters; it's about their lives, not their deaths, and a welcome break with horror movie tradition. It's great to see a horror movie that's not trying to top every other horror movie ever made—not a hint of homage dilutes the style of this intimate horror tale. Those accustomed to more formulaic vampire fare may find the story slow-moving and needlessly ambivalent, but I enjoyed it as much for what it's not as for what it is—an independent horror film in the truest sense of the word. I look forward to Fessenden's future efforts.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Fox Lorber presents Habit in its original 16mm 1.33:1 full-frame theatrical aspect ratio. The film has a definite low-budget look, with a soft, sometimes reddish character and some graininess in darker scenes, and the source print exhibits significant dirt flecking and a few hairs in the early part of the film, with apparent negative damage to one brief shot later on. The DVD image has poor shadow detail, heavy edge enhancement, and some digital compression "grain clouds" here and there, but the film doesn't look too bad considering its $60,000 shooting budget. Not a high-quality image despite the dual-layer disc, but the flaws don't make the film impossible to enjoy.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Habit features a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, with a front-heavy, centered character and no dramatic surround or bass usage, though the track yields good music/dialogue separation in a Dolby ProLogic setup. There's some wind noise in a few outdoor scenes, but the film generally sounds clear and well-balanced (again, given its low budget) and the digital transfer's frequency range handles the varied musical score well. A full 5.1 mix would have been nice, given the film's recent origin, but this does the job.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 8 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:10m:41s

Extra Extras:
  1. The Making of Habit Featurette
  2. Save You From Yourself Video—Just Desserts
Extras Review: Fox Lorber earns their best grade yet (from me) in this department, supporting Habit with nicely-designed animated menus, 8 picture-menu chapter stops and a strong set of supplements, courtesy of writer/director/star Larry Fessenden:

Cast Biographies:

Brief but well-written biographies of six of the cast members, with some filmography information incorporated into the text (not necessarily comprehensive.) These bios fill in the production context more than most such features do; nicely done.

Save You From Yourself Music Video:

A video featuring the band Just Desserts (with Larry Fessenden on vocals and saxophone) having fun "playing" a selection from the film's soundtrack. The transfer quality is good, looking slightly better than some parts of the feature, and it's a fun little low-budget music video.

Making Habit:

This is a 10-chapter documentary about the genesis and production of Habit, with Larry Fessenden narrating over material drawn from an early student version of the film, the production-in-progress and the finished film. Well-organized and very informative, it's a nice blend of the traditional commentary and documentary approaches—the director can talk about the most important things he has to say and illustrate as he likes, rather than being locked into the finished film. It's not a lengthy piece, under fifteen minutes, and some of the chapters seem too brief, but it's a good look at the making and marketing of this low-budget independent production in the hands of its own "naked director."

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Habit is an interesting take on the vampire genre, with a naturalistic, cliché-free approach that pays as much attention to its characters and their ongoing lives as to its horrific elements. Fox Lorber's DVD presents Larry Fessenden's low-budget film competently, with solid supplements. Not to everyone's taste, perhaps, but worth a look. Recommended.

 


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