This film has been on my radar since before it was released. I belong to a whole mess of horror movie F__eB__k groups, and Johnny Hickey came around to promote this in like October of 2020. At that time, his first film Oxy-Morons, a gritty, true-life story that exposed the opioid crisis in Boston way before it became a national epidemic, was streaming for free on Y__T__e. I checked it out and really liked it. It had flaws that plague a lot of independently-financed first films: some sound issues, some blocking issues, and some minor continuity confusion, but that might just require a second viewing. The two main characters are played by Hickey himself and. Damien Di Paola, and they both seem the most experienced actors of the bunch. The story is compelling enough, and the film is enjoyable.
During the time when he was frequenting these horror groups online, Johnny Hickey spent a lot of time hanging out and conversing with the members. He didn't just pop in to plug his new joint. At least in my experience, Hickey has been very gracious about interacting with other cinephiles, especially when it comes to the process of filmmaking and and the horror genre.
Habitual again tackles the subject matter of the drug epidemic in our country, this time focusing on the substitution of fentanyl for party drugs like molly and X. In the ten years since Oxy-Morons, Hickey has definitely put in his time, sweat, tears, and most likely, money to becoming a better filmmaker, and it pays off exponentially with Habitual.
Following a group of twenty-something, rave-rat, second-tier criminals as they plan and attend a rave in an abandoned asylum where I am assuming is somewhere in rural Massachusetts, Habitual weaves a trippy, skin-crawling metaphor of what a fentanyl overdose looks like. Here is where things go off the rails.
Hickey works in prophecy through an intense taro card reading at the beginning of the film, and we are introduced to the concept of a Blight. That is all I will say about that because the less you know, the more terrifying it becomes when the prophecy begins to fulfil itself.
There are tons of digital video and audio glitch effects used to convey the discombobulation that the overdosing characters are experiencing. At first, they are annoying, but the glitches soon become a way of providing the viewer with information about the characters and their experiences.
Hickey's portrayal of a drug-frayed, manic psychopath in very Nic Cage in that it is over-the-top bonkers and beautiful. I forgot to look to see if he also plays the Blight, but if he does, horror is definitely his "thing". Regardless of whether Hickey is the Blight or some other actor, in his writing of the characters, he nails the absolute animalistic drive to eviscerate every living being it encounters. This thing is brutal and terrifying, many times resorting to tearing its victim's flesh apart with its bare hands.
Habitual has taken some hits here for being hard to follow. It's a cautionary tale of what happens when you don't clearly know what it is that you are putting into your body.
I recommend this film to anyone who is interested in immersing themselves into the successful product a DIY feature-film project. Hickey deftly navigates all of the pitfalls into which his first film fell and uses them to create a visceral and horrifyingly realistic experience for the viewer.