Habit (2017) starring Jessica Barden, Roxanne Pallett, and William Ash. Directed by Simeon Halligan.
This movie is about a bunch of girls in a ‘massage’ parlour who kill and eat the punters, so instantly I thought I was getting some kind of gore soaked Fred Olen Ray spectacle. No such luck however, because Habit is one of those realistic, dark and grimy movies set in Manchester that has more in common with Trainspotting than Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.
The film starts off with a young Michael and his sister being dropped off at a park by their mother only to have the mother abandon her children, return to her car and end her life.
Michael and his sister are still troubled by this traumatic event, which has followed them into adult life. Michael’s sister tries to keep up the appearance of a normal life, but is struggling with bouts of depression and a dependency on her medication. Michael is unemployed and spends his time blowing his benefit money on alcohol. One such trip to the benefits office leads to Michael meeting a young, recently homeless girl called Lee. In return for letting Lee crash at his place, she introduces Michael to her uncle, who runs a seedy massage parlour and gives Michael a job on the door.
Well it doesn’t take long for Michael to give in to the advances of one of the strippers, only to have their dalliance interrupted by one of the punters crashing into the room sporting a cut throat. And so Michael becomes drawn into a dark and violent world where the uncle and the strippers kill and eat random punters from the massage parlour.
Michael wakes up one day, realising through a series of hung over flashbacks that he himself has partaken in one of the cannibal orgies. Sickened and revolted, he tries to leave the club but forever finds himself drawn back in to the group. ‘We’re your family now,’ he is constantly reminded by Lee and her uncle.
Habit very much lives up to its name, with the central characters all fighting some form of addiction and the self-loathing it brings, while the uncle and his girls provide a contrast by fully embracing their addiction and revelling in it.
As you can guess, most of the film takes place during the small hours either in the grotty, cum-stained back rooms of the parlour, or outside in the piss drenched back alleys. It’s a dark film, both literally and figuratively.
I really enjoyed this film but I do have some minor quibbles. It ambles along at a slow pace, but I never felt any real sense of foreboding and while the third act brings us the conflict and resolution, I felt the film could have gone much further and delivered something truly shocking. Also, there’s no backstory on the uncle and the girls. I would have liked at least some explanation of how the cannibalism started. Are they an age-old race of vampire like creatures? The film just presents them as people who like to have a nibble every now and then and for this reason they never come across as threatening.
There’s not enough cannibalism in the story to make this a horror film, it’s a drama with horror elements, but it’s worth a watch if you’re partial to gritty dramas.