Review: Livid (Fantastic Fest)
PLOT: A young girl takes up a job as an in-home caregiver to elderly residents. She meets one particularly unusual client - an old woman in a coma living in an abandoned mansion. When the girl learns the woman's dying wish is to be buried inside the house alongside her "treasure," she hatches a plan with her boyfriend and his brother to steal said treasure. Spoiler Alert: things go poorly.
REVIEW: LIVID is the follow-up film from French directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who last created the brilliant INSIDE (read Arrow's 4-star review if you've never heard of it). The film has become something of a modern-day classic for horror fans and, as such, anticipations were high for their next project.
While Bustillo and Maury proved themselves to be talents to watch, LIVID, a frustrating and convoluted mix of horror, fairy tale and fantasy, has proved they are not immune from the dreaded sophomore slump.
LIVID has a promising start as we're introduced to the creepy old mansion and the equally as creepy old lady inside of it. The suspense ratchets up once the young girl and her cohorts return to the house late one night to rob the old woman of her mysterious treasure. Despite some obvious lapses in judgement (why couldn't they just enter the house during the day?), the film still works at this point. The house is creepy enough that as the trio lurk around and find increasingly odd decorations (how about the tea party populated by life-size dolls with taxidermied animal heads on top?) that you're legitimately unsettled.
But at some point you know this is a horror movie and our three interlopers are going to start getting picked off. This is where the film should get fun, but instead this is where it goes off the rails entirely. Instead of continuing as a standard horror/thriller, the film veers off into some weird fantastique horror fairy tale. I can respect the ambition of the film to attempt something outside of the standard haunted house tale, but sadly they misfire wildly with their attempts.
While a film like SUSPIRIA, a film that takes place in a similar nightmarish world, can be forgiven for its weak plot and flimsy characters, LIVID lacks the visual flair of Argento's work and suffers from a ham-fisted third act that tries to do too much and eventually does nothing at all (except induce eye-rolling).
There's the potential for the film to make a statement about parents and how their choices affect their children, but the film never lets us get close enough to any of our characters. All we know about our lead character is that she has different color eyes (something we are lead to believe is important but never really is) and her mother committed suicide. OK, so what of this suicide? And how does it relate to the unfolding situation in this haunted house and the characters that once and presently reside there? LIVID doesn't seem to be too interested in asking any of these questions and without a connection to our characters, the "reveal" feels hollow.
I'll give the film credit for a final, gory kill (and for not reducing the film to a series of jump scares), but that was something that would've had far more impact if I hadn't been bored and confused by the 20-minutes prior that.
There's no doubt will see more impressive work from Bustillo and Maury in the future as even in the muddled mess of LIVID, their talent is on display. Sadly LIVID is not the follow-up we hoped it would be and we'll have to wait patiently for their next effort.