Livid is a French horror film. Reduced to movie blurb it becomes a new take on the vampire legend, though in truth it is rather better than the formulaic movies thrown out by the dozen in America and here. And after all, there have been thousands of vampire movies, so who needs to see another one?
It’s not that the actual suspense or horror scenes are any more or less effective, though there is a certain finesse about them here, nor yet that the plot makes any more sense if you piece together the inexplicable scenes for which disbelief must remain firmly suspended. In fact, many of the ingredients are taken off the shelf from the horror supermarket – the spooky old house, the locked doors, the naive young victims picked off individually for horrible deaths, the one female survivor who gets to understand the inner workings of the script.
However, this being a French movie, there is greater panache and style about the direction and presentation, and indeed use of symbolism where Hollywood would metaphorically batter the audience around the head to make sure the point was understood.
That said, post-Blair Witch, Hollywood is still making me-too’s where the most horrible things are not displayed graphically, having apparently learned that allowing the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps is scarier than doing a complete show & tell. Fear of the unknown is our dominant emotion.
Livid spends more than half the movie building suspense by showing us things we know will come back to haunt us, and the remainder bringing them to life, but with a refreshing twist. It doesn’t cross all the t’s and dot the i’s, and is sparing with the back story. We have to assume the mother and daughter vampires have always been thus, but we do learn how the daughter gains a broken back, flaked skin and “dies” such that she is grotesquely displayed dancing on a life-size musical box. Blood flows copiously, arterial spray sprays, scissors are used to hack human flesh. But then you expected all that, didn’t you?
The script is a notch or two more intelligent than the norm and the performances are handled sensitively. And goodness knows, we’ve all seen some pretty hammy acting at the younger end of the cast in horror movies. It was never going to be monumentally profound, but as the genre goes Livid errs towards the top end.