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By Adrienne Martini

NOVEMBER 1, 1999:  Like a bad penny, Halloween is here again—and with it comes the search for something scary to watch. 'Course, you could go traditional and fill your eve with the evergreen Evil Dead or Night of the Living Dead. Or, you could go highbrow and investigate the existential creepiness of David Lynch. Or, you could chuck it all and go indie with Larry Fessenden's Habit (NR, 1997), recently released on video.

Call it part vampire flick, part Lost Weekend, part unintentional farce as it loosely (very, very loosely) follows a newly single Sam, played by Fessenden, as he hooks up with a gorgeous, exotic woman at a Halloween party. After a few energetic and athletic trysts in various greenspaces on the Lower East Side, Sam soon figures out that he never sees his new flame in the daylight. Oh, and she hates garlic. Quicker than you can say jump, he concludes that she's literally sucking the life out of him. Fortunately, he's too drunk most of the time to care. And that's where this vampire movie drifts away from the norm—the audience is never sure what the truth really is. As Sam's alcohol abuse becomes more profound, the film's structure starts to twist until you're not sure which actor to believe. And that is both the film's strength and weakness—Sam's altered reality is a moody, brooding place that's interesting to visit for the first five minutes but that just gets progressively emptier as he's further wrapped up in his, ahem, habit.

For an even more haunting look into the world of a New York drunk, rent Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle(R, 1994). Jennifer Jason Leigh plays legendary writer Dorothy Parker as she slowly sinks into alienation and depression while the wits of the Algonquin Round Table fall into their own cycles of moral cowardice, back stabbing, and drug abuse. Matthew Broderick, Andrew McCarthy, and Gwyneth Paltrow all make appearances as notables of the era, but it is really Leigh who steals the show and spooks you with her dead-eyed desperation.

If that's too scary for you (and Mrs. Parker has always given me a huge case of the willies for some strange reason...), stick to a more traditional vamp like Nicholas Cage in Vampire's Kiss (R, 1988). It's an unusual romp that should keep you sated until next Halloween.

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