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[Fantastic Fest ’11 Review] ‘Livid’ a Unique and Beautiful Vision!

I love a film that gets people talking, which is why Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s Livid is so fascinating. I enjoyed the atmospheric horror quite a bit, while stringer Brad McHargue wasn’t as impressed. Now, inside you’ll find the strongest opinion yet as Bloody’s David Harley was a big fan of the Inside directors’ latest.

Inside you’ll find Harley’s thoughts on the horror fairytale that’s set during Halloween night when three youths decide to burglarize an old lady’s desolate house, but what awaits them is no ordinary house…

Livid is a challenging watch, not because it’s a tough sit or needs its subtext to be examined with a fine-toothed comb to fully appreciate it – in fact, that’s the exact opposite way to watch Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s follow-up to Inside. Livid demands that its audience watch it through Fulci-tinted glasses as it weaves a fantasy horror tale heavy rooted in nightmare logic and Hammer aesthetics, a style that really hasn’t been replicated to this extent since the Godfather of Gore passed away in the 90’s. They say `Fulci Lives’ and Livid is a testament to that, even without an unending onslaught of gore.

The juxtaposition of the normal first act to the unexplainable, unpredictable rhythms of the rest of the film is a mental jolt, but one that works well. Lucie (Chloe Coullord) is out on her first day of a new job shadowing a home health nurse who keeps things short and sweet on their visits. Their last stop of the day is at Miss Jessel’s (Marie-Claude Pietragalla) dilapidated mansion, considered a haunt of sorts by locals. The wealthy ballerina instructor went into a coma shortly after the death of her daughter and spends her days hooked up to a breathing respirator as she clings onto the sliver of life she has left in her. A treasure, as Lucie’s co-worker explains, is supposedly hidden in the house, though no one has ever been able to find it.

A sense of childish curiosity arises in Lucie, but greed is all she sees in her boyfriend William after he hears the story. Convincing her and his younger brother that finding the treasure will end all their financial problems and give them the life they’ve always dreamed of, the three friends head to the manor and begin the hunt.

Once they enter, all logic is thrown out the window and the rest of the film plays like a waking nightmare. Laurent Bares’ cinematography only establishes the main structures inside the house, like the interior of rooms and the staircase, but how they’re all connected remains a mystery, emulating the dream-like feeling of getting déjà vu from an environment without ever really knowing what you’re pressing forward towards or how to get back. The plot adheres to the same formula, with expositionary flashbacks bring the story up to speed and a basic thread that keeps things from getting non-linear.

Livid is a haunted house movie about a bunch of kids that try to rob the wrong woman and it functions in that sense; it’s just that everything else has a very lucid quality to it. Rooms appear and disappear out of thin air, ghosts show up in one scene and never make their presence known again, and things that have no business being in the same movie are thrown together, but the concoction of del Toro, William Castle, Hammer, and European splatter rationale is surprisingly solid.

Livid is very different from Inside, eschewing the brisk, aggressive approach for a more poetic one, but Bustillo and Maury once again prove that they have a unique and beautiful vision. Thematically, they’re still interested in the emotions of motherhood and loss of a child, but they reach for the heavens otherwise, working on a level where caution is continually thrown to the wind in order to achieve an intense atmosphere and be as visually lyrical as a nightmare can be.




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