Based on a novel by Stephen McGeagh, Habit is a new British horror film set in the neon-drenched streets of Manchester. An interesting blend of neo noir and horror, Habit is the rare horror movie that doesn’t tip full hand in its own promotional materials. The film’s synopsis is vague and its trailer really only introduces you to the film’s tone. With this kind of intrigue, Habit offers a nice hook for horror fans craving something potentially a little different.
Michael is an aimless young man in Manchester, dividing his time between the unemployment centre and the local pub. Having lost his mother at a young age, Michael’s only family is his older sister, Mand, who struggles with mental illness. In a chance encounter, Michael meets a young woman, Jessica, who introduces him to her “uncle”, Ian. Impressed by Michael, Ian hires him to work the door at Cloud 9, his massage parlor. During one late-night shift, Michael witnesses the death of a client. From that point onward, Michael drowns in a nightmare underworld of dark secrets.
Habit a Neo Noir-Infused Horror That Derails Itself In Its Final 20 Minutes
For the first half of Habit, writer and director Simeon Halligan treats the audience to an interesting blend of neo noir and horror. Neither the cinematography nor the production values betray the movie’s modest budget. That is, Halligan beautifully captures Manchester’s neon-infused clubs and seedy alleyways. Early crime elements blend well with bits of horror resulting in something that feels different. When Habit veers full tilt into horror – ratcheting up the gore – Halligan keeps a firm grasp on his story. Some nightmare sequences and erotic elements may remind viewers of Ken Russell’s work.
Early crime elements blend well with bits of horror resulting in something that feels different.
In spite of Habit’s slow burn and interesting mix of styles, everything falls apart in the last 20 minutes. Halligan hints at some interesting themes around a cannibalistic lower-class subculture ‘preying’ on social elite. Habit aspires to be something more. None of its ideas, however, come together in any meaningful way. Audiences may also be confused about where ‘habit’ from the title comes into play. Does Halligan mean the ‘habits’ that regular people fall into or the hunger for flesh? Like the 1999 cult classic Ravenous, Habit teases that consuming flesh makes the characters ‘feel alive’.
Strong Performances Betrayed by a Half-Baked Climax
It’s not just the story that unravels itself by the movie’s climax. First, Habit‘s perfunctory ending will leave most viewers feeling dissatisfied. The climax fails to deliver any tension or emotional payoff; things end rather abruptly. Ambiguity is well-suited for horror, but Habit never earns its ending. Second, Habit’s characters come apart at the conclusion. While Michael (Elliot James Landgridge) is intended to be somewhat of an antihero, his choices and inaction by the end make him a pretty repellent character.
…Sally Carman turns in some impressive moments, eliciting a great deal of empathy with the small amount of screen time she’s given.
Everything else about Habit is very well done, which suggests there’s a lot of potential with the talent involved. All of the film’s performances are strong with Langridge (Michael) and Sally Carman (Mand) both standing out with their emotional work in Habit. In particular, Sally Carman turns in some impressive moments, eliciting a great deal of empathy with the small amount of screen time she’s given. Part of the credit should also go to a screenplay that fleshes out its characters.
Habit Ultimately Lacks Bite Its First Half Promises
As good as Habit is for the first hour or so, it completely turns on itself in the final act. Too bad Halligan leaves key plot points and character motivations vague. What should have felt like a tense standoff in the climax instead unfolds with almost indifference. Michael’s character arc is also completely unsatisfactory. With so much obvious talent present for most of the film, the end result is disappointing to say the least. Habit is certainly worth watching – it’s too good for most of its running time to dismiss. I would just recommend tempering your expectations.