Livid (2011)
By: Fin H. on February 3, 2013 | Comments
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | French DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Starring: Chloé Coulloud, Félix Moati, Jérémy Kapone, Catherine Jacob, Marie-Claude Pietragalla
Screenplay: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Country: France
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French duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo exploded onto the scene in 2007 with their natal shocker Inside, a stylish and assured effort which seized attention with its scenes of eyebrow-raising savagery and sent a ripple of general approval through the murky waters of horror fandom. At its heart a home invasion flick, Inside was essentially grounded in reality and deftly tapped into the universal fear of insanity and the horror of what human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another when we've had a bad day. Rather than attempt to replicate this slam dunk, Maury et Bustillo have headed out on a much more fanciful tangent and hatched a bewitching supernatural tale of blood, ballet and burglary.

Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) is a young girl with heterochromia (her eyes are different colours: if you figured out that this may become significant at some later point then give yourself a very, very small prize – like, a fun-size Mars or something). She is picked up and guided through her first day at her new job making home care visits to the old and decrepit by Catherine (Catherine Jacob), a slightly sardonic, solidly built older woman who's amiable enough but not exactly a brimming reservoir of compassion. At one point Lucie administers an injection unaided, from which we may be meant to infer that she has a history of drug abuse. One of their house calls is to a vast, creepy mansion owned by the mysterious Mrs Jessel, who used to be a renowned, somewhat draconian ballet teacher and now spends all her time in bed with her eyes closed, wearing some sort of breathing apparatus and looking for all the world like Bane's desiccated grandma. Thankfully this coma state seems permanent so there's absolutely no chance that at any point those eyes will suddenly flick open in a penetrating, baleful glare. Probably.

Catherine confides in Lucie that apparently Mrs Jessel has a great treasure stashed somewhere within her excessively large, excessively scary house. Lucie promptly brings this nugget of information to her sketchy, fisherman boyfriend, William (Félix Moati), who is dissatisfied with his lot in life (being skint, smelling of fish, being French…) and immediately concludes that this unspecified "treasure" must of course take the form of a heap of easily fenced valuables and be his key to a better life. William handily embodies pretty much every negative quality in a young male imaginable (avaricious, narcissistic, manipulative…) and is, quite simply, a twat. The pair rope in William's less actively obnoxious but still unappealing brother, Ben (Jérémy Kapone) and set off to relieve Mrs Jessel of her "treasure".

The movie sort of brings to mind hints of The People Under the Stairs and Dolls in the early stages of the break-in, but as events play out it starts to take on a surreal, dream-like quality and begins to show its true colours (predominant amongst these is red). Through flashbacks and plot revelations we learn that there is more to this story than "Greedy interloping teens get chopped right the fuck up" and Livid presents its own stylish and whimsical but undeniably gruesome take on the vampire myth. There are plenty of scenes containing the sort of visceral ultraviolence that we've become accustomed to seeing in French horror of late, but they're often juxtaposed with scenes of unsettling beauty. It's probably best not to go on about the plot too much, suffice to say that the story which ends up being told isn't necessarily the one you were expecting. Some might find these digressions and tangents confusing or irritating, but frankly you're best off simply enjoying the ride, which is just dripping with atmosphere (and gore).

Oh, and those of you who were missing Madame Beatrice Dalle (gap-toothed sex symbol and terrifying nutter who played a gap-toothed terrifying nutter in Inside) will be pleased to know that she pops up in the shower at one point in Livid. She's dead, mind, but c'est la vie.
The Disc
Shot on HD, a film this visually gorgeous is just screaming out for a blu-ray release in this country, but the standard definition anamorphic 2.35:1 picture on offer here will serve very well in the meantime. The soundtrack is French Dolby Digital 5.1 and the film's Hammer Horror-style soundscape and keening, evocative score come across very well. The "Extras" menu offers only trailers for Livid, Monsters, Hell, Troll Hunter, and Sauna.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Initially fairly unassuming, Livid gradually unfolds its wings and emerges as a poignant modern day fairytale which transcends its rather prosaic setup. From the cinematography to the score to the lavish sets, everything about it is as rich and darkly potent as the blood which flows so freely through the second half. Whilst it could be argued that this has come at the expense of coherence and pace, the film stands as a bold and stylish little story with more to offer than the vast majority of its more banal contemporaries.

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