by Anthony King
Happy Scary Movie Month, everyone! My first of two doubles this month includes two of my favorite movies of all time. The vampire sub-genre, I think, is centered around one idea: romance. Whether it's romance between two people, or the romantic view of the world and life, a vampire is ultimately addicted to the idea of romance. To some (not me, thank you very much), to live forever is a romantic notion full of endless possibilities. To consume the very thing that flows through our bodies which gives us life is a romantic thought to some (again, I'll pass on the blood-drinking). That romance then turns to addiction via obsession. And here's where things get dark. Nevertheless, that darkness is rooted in romance, which is why I think vampire stories will always be timeless.
We kick off our evening with my all-time favorite horror movie, Habit. Written, directed, edited by, and starring Larry Fessenden, Habit tells the story of Sam (Fessenden), an alcoholic who is grieving the loss of his father. Sam meets Anna (Meredith Snaider), a mysterious woman who seemingly appears out of nowhere when least expected. Sam and Anna enter a tryst that starts to spiral out of control along with Sam's emotional and mental state.
If Habit is Seconal, Bliss is PCP. Like Fessenden, Joe Begos has the same punk rock attitude about making movies. Get what little money you can, get your friends together, and just make the damn thing. And that's what the story of Bliss is all about. Joe's representatives at the time were doing nothing for him, so he said, “Fuck it,” fired them, scrounged up a little money, and made this movie. Bliss follows Dezzy (Dora Madison), who is struggling to finish her latest commissioned painting. She turns to drugs an alcohol out of frustration, and when she comes out of her blackouts, she's incredulous to discover what she had painted in her stupor. Whereas Habit has a melancholic tone throughout the whole film, Bliss is the complete opposite. When I call it a drug overdose of a movie, I'm not exaggerating. It will be too hyperactive for many people. It's full of unlikable characters. But it's honest. You see a filmmaker wearing his heart on his sleeve. Many may see the movie filled with despicable people, but I see real characters. There are lots of shitty people in the world (duh), and a lot of movies make those shitty people look all glossy and pretty, surrounding them in beautiful settings. Bliss gives you a pissed off artist who packs her nose to escape her frustrations. The problem is, the shit she's packing her nose with leads to something even more dangerous, which then comes out on the canvas.
As of this writing, I'm on day three of no smoking after 22 years on that sweet, sweet nicotine. I know where that road goes if I stay on it. And believe me, I'm not getting back on that road. Addiction leads to tragedy. It led Sam to tragedy in Habit. It led Dezzy to tragedy in Bliss. We need to replace addiction with love (however you define it). We must grieve, we must create, and we must love. Grief, creation and love are all romantic ideas. Ideas, that are almost always included in tales of vampires. Timeless.