There are pros and cons to making a kick-ass, critically acclaimed film for your debut feature. On the plus side, well, you made a fantastic movie. But then you have to follow it up and prove it wasn’t just a fluke. Just ask Richard Kelly, Kevin Costner, or Rian Johnson what it feels like when that effort fails.
And now French directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury have joined that sad walk of shame with the release of their follow-up to the brilliant and brutal thriller, Inside. That film features two women, one pregnant and the other psychotic, battling to the death in the mother-to-be’s home. It’s terrifying, exciting, surprising, and shocking… everything that their follow-up isn’t.
Livid follows three young adults who think they’ve found a way to get rich quick with an easy score. Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) is an apprentice caregiver who discovers one of her clients is a rich, old woman who lives alone in a home with a hidden treasure. She brags about it to her boyfriend and his brother, and the two soon talk her into robbing the place. The trio slips into the old dwelling in the middle of the night, but their simple plan quickly goes awry as all manner of supernatural terrors come to life to stop them.
If that sounds like a fun filled mash-up of monsters and murder I apologize. The only part of that description that actually applies here is ‘mash-up’ as Bustillo and Maury have tossed as many horror cliches as possible into the film. Everything up to and including the [insert French term for ‘kitchen sink’ here] has been thrown into the mix, and the result is a film that never gels or engages, characters who never interest, and scares that rarely succeed.
Details of the story won’t be revealed here, but suffice to say the creepy old lady in the coma is hiding a secret from her past that’s worth killing to protect. The problem is there’s no rhyme or reason to the extent of that secret. It involves people and things that should probably be dead (or at least inanimate), but there’s also magic of some sort, fate in the form of two-colored eyes and random book selection, and vampiric ballerinas.
The image above is part of a beautifully rendered moment in the film, but it feels out of place and worse, it feels devoid of meaning and weight. As for the imagery that scares the best example is a group of dolls first introduced sitting around a small table as if posed for a very morbid tea. But while it manages to evoke a sense of dread it’s an easy and predictable effect… dolls are freaking creepy.
Livid ends on an up note, and while that’s a real rarity in horror these days it feels too forced and unearned. It’s understandable that Bustillo and Maury would want to lighten things up after the utter darkness that is Inside, but that desire is no excuse for a real lack of coherency and quality at the script stage.
The Upside: Some strong and occasionally creepy visuals
The Downside: Lackluster mash up of horror tropes; nonsensical; ultimately uninteresting