The sophomore feature from the directors behind the gloriously amazing 2007 horror film, Inside, are back with an equally impressive follow-up, Livid. To compare it with their first success is pointless since this gothic tale is a different creature in tone and style. While it may not achieve the level of greatness as their first, itâ€™s a fun, creepy tale that echoes Argentoâ€™s Suspiria. It also proves that Bustillo and Maury have a predilection for scissors and young brooding women terrorized by creepy, supernatural female forces.
Whereas Insideâ€™s hysterical horror focuses on pregnancy and the violation and vulnerability of this universally sacred state, Livid excises an equally feminine institution, the ballet school. Opening with our heroine Lucyâ€™s (Chloe Coulloud) first day in training as an assistant for invalids living at home, we are quickly ushered into a gothic mansion where a decrepit woman is in a decades long coma, named Madame Jessel ( ballet choreographer Marie-Claude Pietragalla). Jessel (a name that should ring a bell from The Turn of the Screw), we learn from Wilson (Catherine Jacob), the crass, loud-mouthed woman training Lucy, has treasure hidden somewhere and no family. And, it turns out Jessel used to be an infamously strict ballet teacher in her prime.
Explaining her first work day to her young boyfriend that desperately wants to get away from the family business as a fisherman, she becomes convinced that they should break into the mansion and look for the treasure. At first reluctant, her fatherâ€™s impending marriage to a woman only eight months after the suicide of her mother (Beatrice Dalle) drives her to agree. And, as you can imagine, all hell breaks loose.
Livid is definitely a fantastical, even poetic, horror film. Elements of ballet, witchery, vampirism, and lost treasure all in one narrative sounds just like the old school horror films the directors are obviously in love with. Definitely depending less on gore and more on moody atmosphere, the film builds an excellent sense of dread and then hits us with a smattering of brief, yet violently graphic sequences that rival some of the climactic violence of Inside.
Fans of the terrifying Beatrice Dalle be forewarned; her role is brief and her presence is really more of a haunting accent. The directors are also obviously proud to sport real life renowned dancer and choreographer Marie-Claude Pietragalla as their Madame Jesselâ€”itâ€™s a nice touch. Ingenue Chloe Coulloud (strikingly similar in presence to Alysson Paradis of their first flick) is likeable as our protagonist, but itâ€™s the atmosphere of the film itself that transcends this film. And while the word â€˜lividâ€™ means to be furiously angry, it also happens to mean to be bruised or appear strangulated. Youâ€™ll discover itâ€™s aptly titled.
Reviewed on September 11 at the 2011 Toronto Int. Film Festival â€“ MIDNIGHT MADNESS Programme.