(18) Running time: 88 minutes
Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Writers: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Starring: Chloe Coulloud, Felix Moati, Jeremy Kapone, Catherine Jacob, Beatrice Dalle
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
French writers and directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury exploded onto the horror scene in 2007 with the savage, brutal and scary as hell home invasion horror, Inside. Those who lived through that onslaught of creepiness and savagery have been eagerly anticipating the duo’s next film, myself included. Livid, from the trailer and the strength’s of the makers talents, was looking like being one of the horror highlights of the year.
In the film the gorgeous Chloe Coulloud plays Lucie, and we meet her as she starts a new job as a home-care worker. She visits the elderly with her boss Catherine (Catherine Jacob) and the last stop on her rounds is a huge mansion in the woods, a place forbidden to visit for youngsters, and in the mansion lives a comatose but very rich old lady. For no apparent reason, Catherine tells Lucie of a hidden treasure somewhere in the house.
Lucie’s boyfriend is a fisherman, like his Dad, but wants to get out and make it to the city before he dies of the job, and his brother works for their Mum in the local pub. Lucie herself has lost her Mother, and her Dad works extra long hours, so the temptation of finding the old ladies treasure and making a better life for themselves is too good to pass up. The three head to the house at night, and break in looking for the treasure, but what the find it something far more hideous and frightening.
Bustillo and Maury said they wanted to make a film which paid homage to the Giallo horrors of Argento, and also to early Hammer Gothic horror, and the presentation of the film pretty much achieves that. The three friends find themselves suddenly locked in the house with no way out, and end up being hunted by killer ballerina children, the old lady, the old ladies daughter (who at first appears to have been turned into a musical box doll) and strange toys with anima heads. The sound design is top notch, with a haunting, brooding soundtrack building up suspense at every turn, and the directors use the shadows and lighting to create superb tension and mood. The old ladies collection of religious statues and stuffed animals provide some ultra creepy moments, and of course when the violence comes, it is truly horrible.
However, the narrative is all over the place, and while the style, look and overall atmosphere of the film is superb, the story loses itself in a big, drastic way. There are so many un-answered questions, or plot twists that make no sense. Why did one of the group suddenly end up in a different room with no doors, why can’t the old lady and her daughter go out at night (let alone during the day), why do we see the house spinning in space, why does a particular lady feel the need to ‘serve’ the old lady, whats with the Vampire stuff, where do the Zombies fit in and whats the deal with I am assuming souls travelling from moth to person? There is also a strong emphasis on Lucie’s eyes, one is blue and the other brown, and it would appear that this holds the key to some of the answers, but is not actually made very clear.
Livid is a great to watch on the surface: terrific visuals, brutal violence, haunting and chilling lighting and props, and a great cast. The music and pace build an at times astonishing level of tension and menace, and many of the scares, while cliché, do actually work. However, the film does not have the impact the directors managed with Inside, and instead of leaving you shaken and battered, it will leave you scratching your head, so in a way it is the perfect homage to the Italian Giallo. However, there is far too much style over substance here, and it seems the makers allowed their story to run away from them and they couldn’t catch it again.
In parts this is a terrific horror, but sadly it is all let down by the fact it makes no sense. If there were answers, then this could have been a classic haunted house, vampire house, living dead house or whatever the hell it is horror, but instead it will leave you angry for not being able to figure out just what it all means. Brilliant execution, but painfully flawed in its plot.