Ambiguity can be very effective in a horror film, and few modern horror films push the ambiguity factor as far as writer/director/star Larry Fessenden’s 1997 indie film Habit. Shot in New York City, Habit tells the story of alcoholic artist type Sam (Fessenden) who begins a passionate relationship with a woman named Anna (Meredith Snaider) who may or may not be a vampire. The film is successful in the way that for a good duration of the film’s running time, we’re really not sure what’s really going.

Understandably, Sam’s not doing too well. As the film opens, his father (also an alcoholic) has just passed away, and his girlfriend Liza (Heather Woodbury) has moved out, although she is vague of the current status of their relationship. He is on his way to a Halloween party, and while there, he meets the mysterious Anna, who seemingly appears out of thin air. He leaves with her, but he’s completely drunk and grabbed the wrong coat and one thing leads to another and she’s gone.

Some time goes by, and Sam meets Anna again, at a local carnival. They make love, she bites his lip and draws blood and he wakes up alone in a park with his pants off. The film gets progressively stranger, as Anna and Sam continue seeing each other, and upon each romantic meeting, she ends up drinking some of his blood. The film is not subtle on the connection between the violent and the erotic, as many vampire films fail to ever mention.

The title refers, I think, to a few things. One, Sam’s drinking habit, which helps blur his comprehension of fantasy and reality. Also, there’s Sam and Anna’s habit of meeting for passionate, but bizarre and violent bouts of lovemaking. Also, there’s Anna’s habit of drinking Sam’s blood, which does give Sam some cause to worry.

One effective element to the film is the fact that this was Meredith Snaider’s sole acting credit, so it helps to further the idea that Anna seemingly appears out of thin air. Snaider’s delivery of the lines is somewhat stilted and choppy, but I really think that helps her character seem aloof, other-worldly and helps the audience feel uncertain about her character’s true intentions. Fessenden creates an unsettling mood for this film, especially effective is a sequence with Anna and Rae (Patricia Coleman), one of Sam’s friends, outside in a thunderstorm, the characters half-shrouded in a darkness.

Many horror films are not confident enough in their material to let the film cast its spell, to let the terror and menace of the story spread slowly, to take its time. Habit may not be a scare-a-minute horror film, but you’ll definitely remember it long after it’s over.

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