MOVIE REVIEW: Livid
Posted by phlambler on August 12, 2012
Earlier this month we announced the release of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s latest horror film Livid. Released on DVD, BluRay and EST by STUDIOCANAL on 13 August, Livid is the French duo’s unique take on the ‘haunted house’ genre.
Lucie (Chloé Coullaud) is on her first day as an in-home caregiver in a gloomy seaside town in Brittany, assigned to the estate of a Mrs Jessel. Mrs. Jessel lies in a cerebral coma, by herself, in her large desolate house. Lucie learns from her trainer that Mrs. Jessel, once a dance instructor who lost her only daughter years, has hidden a treasure in her home that she’s holding onto as part of her final will.
Upon retelling this story to her boyfriend, William (Félix Moati), the two along with William’s brother, Ben (Jérémy Kapone), decide to go to the woman’s home late on Halloween night and find the treasure for themselves. As the house reveals itself to be increasingly peculiar, their hunt for the Jessel treasure leads them into a horrifying supernatural series of events that will change Lucie’s life forever.
Had this been made years ago, the phrase slow-burner could well have been devised with Livid in mind. Unlike your typical Hollywood horror fodder, Livid takes it time before introducing you to its more terrifying aspects. However, whilst you can see that Maury and Bustillo are trying to build up a back story to engage the viewer some scenes seem totally unnecessary (there is one with children in Halloween masks, it is set on 31 October which felt like a director playing with some visual concepts they wanted to try out). The dialogue to get the key players to the house is clunky, although this could have been the translation into subtitles, and it was purely the tease of what the treasure might be which kept me interested.
And then we have a different movie. Once inside the house the creepiness began. A macabre tea party, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland had it been written by James Herbert, a decidedly sinister wind-up marionette and a hidden laboratory complete with operating table and specimen jars all come together to leave the viewer with a sense of unease. The style reminded me of Christopher Smith’s Creep, without the overuse of gore for gore’s sake, as the ‘intruders’ to the house are hunted by the horrors within. Darkened rooms, half-seen monsters and freaky science experiments all add to the tension.
Amongst this imagery, we learn more of the history of the house’s inhabitants as we try to escape from its locked doors. Yet again, as with the opening of the film, we are hit with some pieces which just don’t work. Without spoiling it, you’ll know what I mean when you see the floating girl who, whilst visually enticing, had me scratching my head for a reason as to why other than for a payoff at the end of the film.
The ending to Livid is different and is almost like a dark fairytale, beautifully depicted and something which you wouldn’t be surprised if you had been told it came from Del Toro’s stable. I really liked the idea of it and I could feel a little tug on my heartstrings as I watched it. That on its own makes the film worth watching.
In short, it’s a refreshing take on a familiar genre but definitely a ‘game of two halves’. A tighter script with less distractions would have made this a great modern European horror film in the vein of The Orphanage or The Devil’s Backbone. As it is, there were just too many unnecessary concepts being played with at times which lost the focus of what was a great idea with some stand out moments. One for a Sunday night with the curtains shut. Oh, and make sure you watch it in the flicker of candlelight for added creepiness!