Habit review – high camp nuns on the run from John Waters wannabe

Writer-director Janell Shirtcliff’s debut feature plays like a throwback to trashy queer-minded cult films of old, like the early work of John Waters (Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble) or Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation). There’s maybe even just a soupçon of Kenneth Anger in the use of what look very much like excerpts from Anger’s cutup gay bikers-meet-Jesus film Scorpio Rising. Except this shonky tale of crime and punishment in Los Angeles lacks the incisive wit or heretical instincts of those antecedents. It’s more like a Gen-Z fashion magazine homage to Gen-X heroin chic, with fractionally more of a plot.

Main protagonist Mads (Bella Thorne) loves Jesus in her own special way, even though she is a heroin user and possibly a sex and love addict. (She attends an anon meeting for the latter issue but seems mainly there to steal cookies.) When not indulging in her favourite vices, she spends a lot of time lounging on sofas smoking, thinking about Jesus or dealing drugs along with with her flatmate best buddies Evie (Libby Mintz, who co-wrote the script with Shirtcliff) and Addy (Andreja Pejic). The trio get their supply from former actor Eric (Gavin Rossdale), but when one of their customers steals $20,000 from them after a night of partying a little too hard this sets off a chain reaction of violence and retribution. The women “disguise” themselves as nuns – which means wearing the full get-up including wimples but also supercool-looking vintage sneakers and turquoise knee-high boots – in order to raise the money from donations from random strangers in the streets, which is clearly a very stupid plan. Eventually, a ruthless Asian gangster named Queenie (Josie Ho, a hoot) and her henchman Tuff (Jamie Hince) come looking for their money, armed not just with guns and knives but also exotic snakes and venomous insects. The faux nun fugitives don’t know whether to call the police or animal control.

The whole package has the feel of one of those sneaky marketing campaigns designed to punt a product such as lingerie in a very oblique way. Or possibly the back catalogue of music publishers Extreme Music, who hold the rights to most of the tracks played in the film, judging by the end credits. Or maybe the product being shilled is Paris Jackson herself, daughter of Michael, who is on hand here in a dream sequence playing Jesus and has an executive producer credit as well.




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