Livid, the new film from Inside directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, is filled with interesting ideas and strikingly creepy visuals. Unfortunately they never took those things and made a movie out of them.
Bustillo and Maury have done a 180 from the graphic intensity of Inside; this time they’re going for the spook house feeling, one of slowly building dread punctuated by… well, cheap and shitty jump scares, to be honest. That illustrates one of the film’s two major failings: it’s just not scary. It’s also got a story that sort of limps along from scene to scene, never being involving or interesting or giving the audience a reason to care about anything in the third act.
Lucie is a young girl in a French seaside village who is starting a new job as a home care nurse. On her rounds she comes to a dilapidated old mansion whose sole inhabitant, an ancient rich woman, is in a permanent coma. It’s rumored the woman has a treasure hidden somewhere in the house so that night - which happens to be Halloween - Lucie, her dipshit boyfriend and their inane pal break into the house to get rich. Things go badly for them.
Livid is filled with atmosphere, and the art direction is out of this world, but none of that amounts to anything. As the three kids bumble about the house there’s a shocking lack of tension, and when the shit begins hitting the fan it’s not scary, it’s barely interesting and it mostly feels arbitrary. Bustillo and Maury are going for dream logic much of the time, which I get and like, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Livid is disjointed in a way that’s not interesting.
It’s disjointed because the directors seem set on making the ultimate Halloween mix tape. Livid homages so many different kinds of movies - from those of Guillermo del Toro to J-Horror to haunted house movies to vampire films to Universal Monsters to even a reference to the directors’ own unmade Hellraiser remake as well as Inside - that it never creates an identity all its own. These pieces don’t fit together, and so by the time the film gets to its ending, which is weird and conceptually brave, it’s impossible to give a shit.
If the film had been scary I wouldn’t have minded the disjointed feeling. If the film had a strong throughline and story, I wouldn’t have minded it not being scary. But while Livid is atmospheric and has some spooky moments it ultimately fails completely as horror or film.