Fantastic Fest Forever: LIVIDE
I'll never forget my first time. I was nervous, and a bit sweaty. I was excited, but also worried that it wouldn't live up to the anticipation. Luckily, I had Devin Faraci there to help me.
Of course I'm talking about my first time visiting an Alamo Drafthouse (what the hell did you think I was referring to?), but it wasn't just for a regular screening - it was a Fantastic Fest premiere. Twitter has been very instrumental in ensuring that I always remain in debt, because rather than just hear general praise of a cool event, I was now exposed to reactions from many of my friends in real time; there are only so many times you can read "Fantastic Fest is amazing" on your feed before vowing to see it for yourself the following year. So in 2011 I traveled to Austin for the very first time to see what the fuss was all about, racing from the airport to get to the theater in time for the premiere of Livide, which had been on my radar for a while because it was the sophomore feature from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the team behind Inside.
That 2007 film, which I thankfully only had to drive down the street to see here in Los Angeles (at Screamfest in 2007), was then and is now tied for my absolute favorite horror film of the past decade (its competition is The Descent, for the record), and at no point did I consider it silly literally fly to another state to see their followup. Even if it was showing in some shitty mall theater with no armrests I'd be excited - making such an anticipated movie my first in the legendary Alamo Drafthouse was almost too ideal. I honestly wasn't sure if I was more excited about seeing what the Drafthouse was like or the movie itself; I momentarily considered seeing a movie I didn't even care about so I could just soak in the atmosphere. Folks were already being seated when I arrived at the theater, and I still had to pick up my badge and find a place to store my luggage, not to mention figure out how it all WORKED; five years later I still laugh thinking about Devin (and Ryan Turek) showing me how to order food, how to flag a server during the movie, etc. I honestly forget what I ordered (knowing me as well as I do, I'm sure it was a burger and a shake), but it didn't take long for it to slightly ruin traditional moviegoing experiences for me. There's a theater near where I grew up called Chunky's that does something like the Alamo, but it's cabaret style seating in rolling chairs and thus not very ideal for either the moviegoing part (those servers block your view, and often) or the eating, as your chair can and WILL roll back if you opt to try to get comfy with your food in your lap. It's "fun", but it's not something I liked to do all that often - if I lived near a Drafthouse I doubt I'd ever go to a regular theater.
As for Livide, it wasn't quite as good as Inside, but it was a winner in my eyes all the same. With their first film drawing lots of comparison to Halloween (my all time favorite movie), I was quite tickled that they continued the tradition by throwing in a direct nod to Halloween III in this one, and also that the film itself seemed like something we might have gotten if the original anthology idea for Carpenter's series had actually been able to continue after Season of the Witch. The 3rd act took a few turns I wasn't completely sold on at the time, but in retrospect I like them more since the basic plot is identical to Don't Breathe (three youths break into a house in order to find a rumored treasure, the owner is decidedly not what they were expecting), but gives us vampires and assorted weird stuff instead of a rape dungeon. And it wasn't much like Inside at all, proving that the team wasn't just content to repeat themselves while mostly avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.
The film is now seemingly available everywhere except here in the US (Dimension bought it, but they seem to have trouble releasing their American franchise films, let alone offbeat French originals), but in a weird way I've grown to kind of like that. If and when I watch it again, it will almost certainly be at home, by myself, with (at best) a beer from the fridge and a few Oreos - a far fall from the setting where I first saw it. Maybe it's better to just hold on to that wonderful memory, breaking my Drafthouse cherry in the most appealing way possible: good food in front of me, good friends on each side (and dozens more around), and the satisfaction of knowing the flight/hotel/hassle had already been proven worth it before the lights even dimmed. I'm returning to Fantastic Fest this year after missing the last couple, and before the movies I will be looking around to see if I can spot someone who is making that screening their own first experience at a Drafthouse, hoping they are even half as happy as I was.