Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Two for One: HABIT & BLISS

 by Anthony King

“I suspect that the less you know about me, the longer you'll stay interested.” - Anna

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.
Every script I've ever written, whether a play or musical or film, has been influenced by this film. I love the punk rock nature behind it's creation, I love the topics of grief and addiction, and I love fucked up romances. Sam is coming off a break-up, his father has recently died, he manages a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant at night, and in his waking hours he's either drunk or hungover. Understandably, he's lonely. Along comes this mysterious and sexy and kinky woman. A little too kinky? Mysterious and sexy and kinky enough to get inside Sam's head and consume his thoughts. We know this relationship is headed towards a tragic ending from the moment Sam and Anna meet, but Fessenden takes it right up to the edge (literally) and let's the viewer wallow in the tragedy until the credits roll.

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.
The reason I love Habit and Bliss so much isn't because of the characters (Sam and Dezzy aren't the greatest people in the world). It's not because I relate to them (I don't drink a ton and I D.A.R.E. to say no to drugs). I love these two movies because the passion which allowed for their creation is so evident on screen. And between the two films, you have three main topics that speak volumes to most people: 1. Grief (Habit); 2. Creation (Bliss); 3; Addiction (both). Human beings need to grieve in order to survive. Human beings need to create in order to survive. What kills human beings more than anything else in the world? Addiction.

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.


  1. Nice piece!
    Also, good luck on quitting smoking. I smoked for ~18 years, quit 3 times before I had success. My beautiful wife bribed me, said if I quit for 3 months she would buy me a projector. That was 5 years ago.
    It's tough, but keep at it! You can do it!