Monday, 14 July 2014

Review - Livid (2011 - Dir. Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury)

I need to recap on three points that I've wittered on about in previous reviews:

  • I don't like vampires and I don't like vampire films. Probably Near Dark is the best of a bad bunch.
  • I don't like flashbacks. I'd rather get on with the story rather than get back story. Prometheus was a complete waste of time for me.
  • I don't like horror films that fall foul of all of the usual cliches (as opposed to the unusual cliches?): irritating characters that behave in stupid ways and who deserve to die.
So here we have Livid, a vampire film, littered with vampires and populated with irritating characters that behave in stupid ways. I'm possibly not the best person to review this and you may think that a low score beckons. Yet no. Something saves Livid from a minuscule rating: that all important atmosphere.

Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) takes on a job as a carer for pensioners in their own homes. She is shown the ropes by Catherine Wilson, another carer who seems to be distinctly uncaring. They visit a creepy looking house where Mrs Jessel resides, an old lady in a coma. Wilson lets slip that the house contains hidden treasure. Later in the pub, Lucie tells the story to her irritating boyfriend William who decides, along with Ben (also irritating), that breaking into the spooky house and thieving the treasure sounds like a smashing idea. Reluctantly Lucie goes along with this (in a just about non-irritating fashion) and off they trot for some pilfering fun.

The above makes it sound that Lucie isn't too bad. And she isn't. She's one of the strong points of the film despite falling into the stupid category, "Hey baby, let's split up. I'm only going to search a dark room that contains a bizarre tea party tableau where the partcipants are all evil looking stuffed animals with a tendency to swivel their heads in a creepy creaky style. But don't worry, I'll take a torch." Okay, she doesn't quite say those words, but she may as well. Despite this I found myself caring for her plight. 

Going back to stupidity. The funniest stupid moment is when one of the characters get savagely attacked by someone who is obviously a wrong 'un. Rather than screaming, he tells the attacker to: "Cut it out." In a similar vein he could have tried to repel his aggressor by saying, "Hey mate, calm down," or better still, "Whoa there cowboy!" 

Has this done anything to improve on the whole vampire mythos? It tries a different approach that is marginally more interesting than the usual frilly shirt wearing romantically minded blood-guzzler. It's got some pretty nifty make-up effects and there is maybe one shot of the house at night that shows why they can't escape that impressed me mightily, but still, on the whole there's nothing that really sells vampires to me. 

The things that pulls Livid back from the brink, although they're not enough to give it an above average rating, are the textures and the lighting. Working together, they produce a pretty creepy atmosphere, not up there with Silent Hill, but not too bad either. This allowed the more irritating aspects to wash over me. The production designer and cinematographer both need a pat on the back for filling the screen with textures designed to be dirty, grimy and dusty. Admittedly, the house is sometimes lit by a ubiquitous torch but as Alien proves, it's better not to show too much. Inside, by the same directors, looked a little bit cheap. With the production values on show, this at least looks like it had a budget. 

Something that would have made Livid even better is some great music. The Beyond is generally stupid with paper thin characters and a daft plot, yet it's got a stunning atmosphere which is created through the visuals and the music. It all adds up to one of my favourite films (hence my 10/10 rating). Not that the music in Livid is bad, it's just instantly forgettable.

So for a vampire film filled with cliches and flashbacks it hasn't done too bad.

If you like this you could also try:
Here Comes the Devil, Silent Hill.


  1. Can I ask how you saw this? I've been waiting to hear about a video release.

    1. I saw it on DVD in the UK. It's also available on Blu-ray, again as a Region 2 release. I can't see a Region 1 release available anywhere, but don't worry, there's a completely pointless remake on the way: