a review by Elizabeth Vinton
I would like to say a big thank you to Madman Entertainment for accepting my request to review the French horror film, ‘Livid’.
Livid tells the story of Lucie, a beautiful young woman who has begun work as a personal carer and spends her first day under the wing of a rather tired and bitter Mrs Wilson who handles her patients with a degree of resentment and apathy. The final patient for the day is a Madame Jessel, an extremely creepy and withered looking woman attached to two blood transfusion bags and wearing a bizarre mask over her face, in a deep coma. Her bedroom is nestled in the top floor of a huge gothic mansion located deep within the woods outside of town.
Lucie learns through Mrs Wilson that it is rumoured that Madame Jessel has a fortune located somewhere within the house, and as her only daughter is dead, there is no inheritor. Whether there actually is one and where it could be Mrs Wilson is not aware as she has been unable to find it, despite trying herself.
Lucie meets up with her boyfriend William, who is looking to escape working for his father and create a new life with Lucie elsewhere. When he learns of Lucie’s day and in particular Madame Jessel’s supposed fortune for the taking, he proposes that they break into the mansion and find the ‘treasure’, a ticket out of their miserable lives.
Lucie is horrified at the thought, until she returns home to find her father is having his new girlfriend move into the family home eight months after his wife and Lucie’s mother committed suicide. Distressed by the turn of events, she agrees to go with William and his friend Ben to the house to find the treasure without injury to house or Madame Jessel, and take enough so they can begin again in a new town. In doing so they encounter something old, supernatural and evil that will change their lives forever.
This movie is visually an absolute treat – I will warn those who can’t tolerate blood/gore that the film contains these elements but they keep with the dark gothic theme of the story. The film makers have done very well with a small budget, from the striking and morbid opening sequences, to the emerging horrors that exist in the house, the cinematography is wonderful to watch and alone is worth buying the film for.
Stand out imagery that comes to mind is a secret buried in the sand on a lonely beach during the opening sequence, the multitudes of lost children flyers stuck to the wall of a shelter, the shadows cast from an ornate staircase under the light of a torch, a tormented little girl floating in the air and a lone figure of a ballerina on a pedestal, locked away in a curtained room. There really is too many to mention.
The story is an intriguing one. It is very modern horror that melds into a fairytale, flitting between present and past to tell a very gothic, heartbreaking and horrifying drama about a daughter and mother and the terrible life they lead. Very Frankenstein like, in that there is some sympathy for the ‘monster’.
Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of story development to make the plot really satisfying. It is not a long film, so naturally some short cuts are taken, but sometimes that is to the detriment of the film.
The thought processes that lead to the three protagonists making the extreme decision to commit an act of burglary is not really believable. To some degree you don’t really know about or have seen enough of their lives to really think they are so horrible that they need to take such drastic action to escape. You have to just assume that what they are going through is unbearable, otherwise they come across as impulsive, impatient and selfish young people.
I do not want to say too much to ruin the movie, but the background to the supernatural drama could have been delved into more as well. There was great potential for more pathos which was let down by a sparse script.
There are, however, some nice clues left as to some of the more human horrors going on in the town and within the mansion, that come together as the plot unfolds – this is definitely a movie you watch a couple of times to get the full picture.
The ending has been a point of contention for many reviewers from what I have read, especially as the ending breaks the movie into two parts – from modern teenage style horror to fantastical Del Toro style. I actually really enjoyed this aspect, and the ending itself, whilst not perfectly told, was appropriate, ambiguous and beautiful.
Livid is a film I will watch again and again – it is visually stunning and the story is imperfect but holds your attention.
A great movie for Halloween – especially as the events of the film occur on the evening of the 31st October!