[Interview] TIFF ’11: ‘Livid’ Directing Duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo

I’ll never, ever forget TIFF 2007. Actually, I can always rely on a group of my friends (largely dragged out by me) to recount, in detail, my ordeal that night. It all started with Mr. Disgusting himself, Brad Miska masterfully hyping up this little French horror film titled Inside. It supposedly made High Tension look uber-tame. How can any genre fan not get excited by that deliciously sick proposition?! I even went as far as to avoid the plot synopsis entirely. It would prove to be my fatal mistake. If you haven’t seen Inside already; it’s about a pregnant widow being tormented by a severely creepy woman who desperately wants take the unborn child for herself…by any means necessary. On a personal note, my wife was due to have our child in a few months. So, to say that this film had a profoundly traumatic effect on me could safely be labelled as the mother of all understatements. I vowed to hate the directors, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo for life. To make a long story short, time heals all wounds and I now LOVE this film to no end.

So I was extremely excited to see their follow-up, Livid (review), a fairy tale-like supernatural horror film that could be described as Pan’s Labyrinth meets Hellraiser. It contains some of the creepiest moments I’ve seen all year. I had the honor and pleasure to chat with this duo at TIFF, where their film was making its world premiere.


BD: What made you decide on supernatural horror for your sophomore film?

Julien Maury: We don’t have a plan. We are only motivated by envy. We were fed up with realistic horror movies. We wanted to explore another side of the genre that we love; fantasy, more classical horror movies like old-style Hammer. It was something we wanted to explore, change a little bit and to go into that direction because we love it. It was the same motivation with Inside; a story we wanted to see on the screen.

BD: Does Livid have about the same budget as Inside?

Julien Maury: A little bit lower. It’s very hard to make horror movies in France.

BD: Why do you think that is the case? I find some of the best have come out of your country.

Julien Maury: Yah, a lot of good ones. French people have forgotten we had invented the gore with the Grand Guignol. Producers who put up the money in France don’t give a fuck about horror movies in France. It doesn’t work in cinemas.

BD: So the audience isn’t there.

Julien Maury: Horror always flops. Martyrs is a masterpiece but was a flop in France. Alexandre Aja’s High Tension was also, a flop so that is why Aja moved to the United States.

BD: So why did you choose to make another genre picture in France?

Julien Maury: We haven’t chosen to stay. Just after Inside, we accepted to work with The Weinstein Company and Dimension on the Hellraiser reboot; doesn’t work. After that we tried to work with them on Halloween 2 so we are open-minded. We would love to work in the United States. We wrote another script called Snow with another producer but it was too big budget…only 5 million though (laughs). In France, it is impossible to find 5 million to make a horror movie. So we did another script, low budget and it was Livid. We are still open-minded. A lot of American studios are offering a lot of projects, maybe 60, 70 projects. There are no more (horror) projects so maybe Livid is the last. We would like to continue (to make horror in France) but it’s too hard. We are very excited about what is happening in Spain, England and Norway. For us, Spain is like El Dorado. When we talk to Spanish directors, they say: “You’re so lucky to live in France. France is so good for horror”. Every country has a different look on the other. When you are in the Inside, it is totally different.

BD: Do you have a theory on why your culture doesn’t respond to horror?

Julien Maury: We don’t know but I think maybe one part of the explanation would be the fact that they’re low budget. They are quite cheap. We don’t have the means to express what we really want to express so I think they think: “It’s French…it sucks. Also, the fact that hearing the French language doesn’t help too. We hear all the subtleties of the language and some of the actors don’t act so well. In North America, no one is going to hear the little problems.

BD: With both of your films, I find the tone throughout to be consistently relentless and aggressive. What were you attempting to accomplish this time around?

Julien Maury: We wanted to build a particular atmosphere. We went for something heavy from the first image to the last. I think it’s just the expression of tastes and what we love in genre. So it’s totally unconscious. We wanted to have some really striking scenes in the middle of this sort of fantasy, dream-like movie. We wanted to have some organic scenes and some shockers because we love it. We don’t know how to do it another way.

BD: So, you were up for the Nightmare On Elm Street remake. What happened?

Alexandre Bustillo: We haven’t worked on it but Platinum Dunes offered it to us and we just said no.

BD: Is there a reason why you turned it down?

Julien Maury: The reality was that we didn’t know what to do with that remake. There was no possibility to rewrite it so that’s it and we said no. Maybe it’s an idealistic vision because we are young filmmakers and maybe in a couple of years we’ll direct a movie for food (laughs). It was just that; we love the original and there was no need to remake unless they let us rewrite it because if you want to do a remake, let’s do something really different. The point of a remake is to do a brand new vision of the original movie. It’s useless to do the same. So let’s push the subject and do a story of a pedophile, child-abuser stalking a bunch of kids. They said: “You’re crazy guys. We want to do a mainstream movie (laughs).

BD: What do you plan on doing next?

Julien Maury: Surfing (laughs.)

Alexandre Bustillo: We are going to shoot a short for an anthology…maybe in January. It’s very, very, very hardcore stuff…possibly, more hard-core than Inside but with a fantasy element. It’s absolutely awful and hardcore.

BD: Will it be in French or English?

Alexandre Bustillo: It will be shot in English. We have actually written another script. It’s too early to speak about it but it will be something between Inside and Livid, in the sense that we’ll be taking some very strong, realistic elements. More hardcore than Livid…we’ll try.

Julien Maury: We will always do genre movies because we don’t know how to do other things (laughs).

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