Do you expect tingly, creepy fun or sheer, unrelenting terror from a carnival spook house? Most of us are seeking a safe experience. A little bit of the unknown is just fine, and an adrenaline rush is a bonus, but we’re not paying to be scarred by the experience. More than anything, it should just be a simple good time.
It's not exactly the kind of experience we expect from the guys who brought us the hardcore hair-raiser Inside, but here we are. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury continue to impress with Livid, their dreamy, safe “old dark house” follow-up to their more brutal home invasion flick. More than anything, Livid feels like a couple of directors at play, creating a thin narrative to support the vivid horror imagery they’ve come up with, regardless of whether or not it makes any sense.
Chloe Coulloud plays Lucie, a young caretaker of the elderly, fresh on the job, who uses her new position to fleece the former ballerina Madame Jessell (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), who now rests as a gas-masked invalid in the creepiest old mansion in the neighborhood. Lucie enlists the help of her boyfriend, a fisherman, and his brother, a bar back, all with the promise of a treasure hidden in Jessell’s estate that will allow them all to escape their dead end jobs. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
No one faults a spook house for lacking a strong narrative -- we want chills and thrills and an excess of horror imagery that borders on gaudy. In that way, Livid completely delivers. It’s a junk food trick-or-treat bag of deliciously bad-for-you horror visuals with no deeper sense of purpose than to entertain. Bustillo and Maury seem to be channelling the wicked energy of Guillermo Del Toro, without any of that director’s substance.
The directors let you know their playful intent early on, with blatant nods to cult-favorite horror films that border on being cutesy. If that doesn’t alert you to the fact that this will be a completely different experience to Inside, I don’t know what will. While never coming close to feeling threatening, Livid’s own brand of nonsense is just legitimately spooky enough to satisfy. Livid certainly proves that the writing-directing pair are the real deal, and they’ve now handled two totally different types of horror films with equal skill and an effortless flair for the hardcore.