2011 | Not rated (R equivalent) | starring Chloe Coulloud, Catherine Jacob, Beatrice Dalle | directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury | 1h 32m |

Release Note: Livid debuted at international film festivals in 2011, however wasn’t released in the United States until 2022 when Shudder obtained the rights from Dimension and released the film on their platform. 

When Lucie (Chloe Cloulloud) becomes the caretaker of bed-ridden Mrs. Jessell she learns that the home and former ballet school holds a treasure ripe for the taking. Recruiting two friends, Lucie sneaks back into the home at night and encounters the true history of the house and horrors that don’t want them to leave.

Let’s jump back a decade or so to 2008. In the United States torture porn was reigning at the box office, but in France there was a Horror New Wave reacting to both torture porn and the countries own politics. French New Wave Horror was characterized by strong female leads, incredibly gruesome violence, visual artistry and a balance of absurdity and humor thrown in. It gave rise to Alejandre Aja (High Tension), Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) and others of the movement who went on to Hollywood with varying degrees of success. One of the cornerstone films of the genre was Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s confined cinema masterpiece Inside that centered around two women turning a home into a war zone as one invades it and tries to cut out the other’s unborn child. Previously unreleased in over a decade we now get to see Bustillo and Maury’s follow-up Livid, a slower more methodical counter-point to the rage of Inside.

Since Inside, Bustillo and Maury have struggled to reclaim their initial spark of creative intensity finding one project after another, some in France (Among the Living), some in Hollywood that would seem right up their alley (Leatherface) and some high concept (the recent The Deep House) that fell apart. It’s interesting to view Livid now through that lens. At the time the film would have been a disappointment, but given what’s come after this genre mixing haunted house film is interesting and different and still, for the most part, works. It’s not going to blow minds, but it all clicks together pretty well.

This time they focus more on atmosphere and unfolding the story than in sheer intensity and blood-splattering. Livid, ironically, unfolds slowly and measured with more than a few fantasy elements. Lucie starts as our heroine and soon becomes the story catalyst, giving over to the film’s true intention to reveal what went on in this house decades ago and why it sits in a paralyzed state now. Bustillo and Maury focus on conjuring up images of horrific beauty – Mrs. Jessell’s aged face behind an elaborate oxygen mask, a trio of young ballet dancers attacking their victims in synchronized fashion, a spinning night light and a gruesome surgery. As the MPAA might say, all involving children.

I enjoyed the film. Like it’s New Wave sibling Marytrs, Livid ultimately starts as one kind of horror and weaves into a different genre all together. The truth here is a secret worth keeping, the performances are all pretty good (including Bustillo and Maury favorite Beatrice Dalle in something of a cameo). While we’re never likely going to get another Inside this movie, this Suspiria via Guillermo Del Toro, challenges in a different way. It’s a work that shows Bustillo and Maury still have a vision and ambition even when it’s not entirely successful, it’s admirable. Worth checking out for anyone interested in New Wave French Horror.