Starring Marie-Claude Pietragalla, Chloe Coulloud and Felix Moati
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo
In 2007 French newcomers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo unveiled their ferocious debut film, L’interieur (Inside), at the Toronto International Film Festival with an alarming force to a credulous Midnight Madness crowd. Now, four years later, eager filmgoers waited anxiously for the highly respected duo to shock them with a new slice of horror despite the fact that Livid is a much different beast altogether.
At the premiere both directors addressed the fact that their second horror feature is a love letter to the classic Hammer films and Argento’s giallos from past decades, and although it is clear that Livid is certainly not as timeless as those venerated predecessors, it effectively pays tribute to a more old school era of horror cinema. Then again, is this highly stylized Gothic horror film enough to please those who were scared witless only four years before?
At the beginning of Livid viewers are introduced to Lucie (Chloe Coulloud), a young woman who has just taken on a new job as an assistant helping the elderly in their homes. However, one of Lucie’s patients is a unique case, and no amount of training could have prepared her for Madame Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), an elderly comatose woman who is as dilapidated as the creepy Victorian house she resides in.
After her employer “conveniently” tells Lucie about a rumor that Madame Jessel has a lot of money hidden in her home, Lucie gives in to temptation and brings her boyfriend and his brother with her to break into the Jessel manor in search of fortune. Unfortunately, this trio has picked the wrong mansion to rob as they soon realize there are insidious forces of evil waiting to torture and butcher the insatiable group of friends. Thrills, chills and confusion ensue.
Without a doubt Livid is a tightly constructed horror film that furthers the filmmakers’ distinct visionary styles even though it lacks the viciousness of L’interieur. Returning editor Baxter (who also edited this year’s Midnight Madness film The Incident) and cinematographer Laurent Bares also aid Maury and Bustillo’s nightmarish horror film by bringing the terror to life with low-key lighting and quick, jump-cutting film edits that enhance the frightening moments onscreen.
On the other hand, just like in James Wan’s Dead Silence, the directors of Livid focus too much time on recreating the nostalgic feeling of the Hammer films and spend too little time on providing genuine scares and a coherent plot in this supernatural thriller. While the build-up to the impending horror is effective, once the villains rear their ugly faces (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you), the film is reduced to formulaic restraints and generic boo tactics that seems far too uninspired for the duo that helmed quite possibly one of the scariest movies ever made just a few years before.
Although Livid does not live up to its high expectations, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo deserve an “A for effort” for taking a huge risk and gamble for sticking to their guns by continuing to create films with originality. While the film has plentiful gore and fun chills, it is nowhere near the genius of the filmmakers’ directorial debut.
3 1/2 out of 5