This time out I thought we might tip toe our way to France for some Supernatural Horror fantasy fun with a look at “Livide”, just out on the French Region 2 DVD. With English subtitles!! Yay!!
Our quick synopsis goes as follows: “Young student nurse Lucie (Chloé Colloud) is still recovering from her mother’s recent suicide when she begins her first day as a trainee making home visits to the homes of elderly patients. Her last stop of the day is at a dark, labyrinthine mansion of Madam Jessel, a once famous former dance teacher, now a vegetative invalid trapped in an incurable coma.By accident, she hears some juicy gossip from her supervisor, Nurse Wilson (Catherine Jacob), that the still wealthy Madam Jessel supposedly possesses a treasure hidden somewhere in the house. Later, Lucie is pushed by her boyfriend William and his brother Ben to break into the house that night in the hope of finding that treasure and stealing it away for themselves.However, their search for Mrs Jessel’s hidden wealth leads them into a peculiar series of horrifying supernatural events beyond their understanding which will change Lucie forever…”
Our Trailer for this one is super creepy…. dark and mysterious with lots of tantalizing glimpses of some fairly nasty stuff… ghastly vampire ballerinas… lurking mummified witches… All sorts of things that have your Favorite Catgirl pretty darn excited by the possibilities. If you are a regular visitor here at the ol’ Litterbox, then you know there’s absolutely no way I’ll be able to pass this one up….
So… let’s hurry right along then and see just what sort of other scary stuff awaits our poor young Lucie…. It’s time to “Read On”!!
“Livide”, by the French directing team Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, is their sophomore follow up to 2007’s “À l’intérieur” aka “Inside”. Yours truly really can’t comment on that earlier film as I haven’t actually had the opportunity to see it… mostly due to my initial reaction to it’s “torture porn” sounding storyline featuring the graphic stalking and caesarian torture of it’s main character, a young pregnant mother-to-be. Definitely didn’t sound like this wee Catgirl’s cup of tea, despite all the positive reviews and accolades to the contrary. So why give “Livide” a look then?
Much of that was the look at the Trailer that I had a peek at waaaaaay early on before it’s theatrical release. That Trailer promised a much more “goosepimplely” type of horror than that on display in “Inside” and promised a return to some horror notions a lot less of the slasher genre style than that first film. In fact… there looked to be some pretty eerie supernatural stuff in this one too… never a bad thing in this girl’s book. Once I found that it actually would be released with English subtitles on that French disc, well…. the rest was rather inevitable.
The story starts out promisingly too… which a quick intro to our main character Lucie (played by Chloé Colloud) and her life as a student nurse in a nameless tiny little rural French fishing village. It’s one of those quaint little places where people her age always seem to feel “trapped” in and Lucie in particular has some things she’d definitely like to escape from. For one, she’s dealing with the recent suicide of her mother…. an event never really dealt with in any detail by our story, but one that feels like it should be important than it turns out to be. This was where I began to worry a bit about “Livide”…. as that bit of character back story being so lacking is really only the first of many story elements that could have been better utilized as the tale moves long. Want another? How about Lucie’s odd lil’ physical trait of having two different colored eyes? A very real medical condition called “Heterochromia of the eye” (heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridum)… you know, just like David Bowie. There’s some hint that this means our dear Lucie can see “things” that ordinary people can’t. Yep… that’s right, “Lucie sees Dead People”…. or…. maybe not. This could have been a nifty plot element, but beyond a few early teasing speculations, nothing is ever made of it.
There’s a short bit of character development as Lucie spends her first day going about the business of visiting patients in their homes where we get to see the hopeless empty lives of those people and the soul crushing monotony of the idea of her life becoming nothing more exciting than catering to the needs of these sad patients until she becomes as jaded and empty as her supervisor, Nurse Wilson seems to have become. Her last patient of the day though… now that’s a whole other story.
Madam Deborah Jessel (played by Marie-Claude Pietragalla)…. once a famous world renowned ballet teacher is the sole inhabitant of an absolutely creepy old mansion way outside of town. A comatose invalid confined to bed and kept alive by respirators and blood transfusions, is visited daily by Nurse Wilson to see to her rather limited needs… all paid by her estate and sizable personal fortune. Nurse Wilson lets slip the rumored notion that Madam Jessel also has a treasure hidden away somewhere in her crumbling mansion… just the sort of thing you know is going to lead our poor Lucie to deadly danger once she’s foolish enough to pass the story on.
You’d think she’d have more sense, but it isn’t long before she lets that story slip to her boyfriend William (played by Félix Moati). He’s working with his father on the family fishing boat… a life he detests. He’s already had a history of trouble with the law, and the idea of a treasure just lying around has him eager to risk a little breaking & entering for the chance to hit that “big score” that could have him and Lucie long gone from a life they both hate. William’s brother Ben (played by Jérémy Kapone) gets wind of his scheme and it isn’t long before the both of them are pestering Lucie to come along to help them find it. Yep…. big, big mistake… 😉
Naturally… this all leads to them heading out to the mansion on Halloween night to try their luck at a quick bit of burglary. (How appropriate, eh?…. Although again, this seems to be merely another teasing coincidence and never gets to be really important.) For some reason, our lil’ group ditches their car well away from the mansion, requiring them to make a rather lengthy hike to the house before breaking in. Stupid idea…. after all, the mansion is deserted except for the comatose Jessel and all the locals avoid the supposedly haunted locale like the plague itself so just who’s going to see them anyway? And what if they find out the “treasure” is some sort of really bulky item? Or what if they need to make a speedy getaway? Yep… dumb, dumb, dumb. Not to mention fairly unbelievable story wise. Oh well….
Once inside… Lucie leads them to Madam Jessel’s bedchamber waaaay up on the third floor so they can lift the ornate key she wears around her neck, and which logic dictates must have some connection to her “treasure”. Sounds easy, right? Nope… not on your life.
Here’s where things start going weird. There’s no treasure of course…. at least nothing a bunch of thieves would find valuable. Instead our little group discovers this is all about Anna (played by Chloé Marcq)…. Madam Jessel’s supposedly long dead daughter. Well… turns out she’s dead alright… just not completely dead…..
Anna is one freaky young lady. Flash backs show her as an odd cannibalistic little girl with scary powers that Jessel kept a prisoner here in the house. Mind you… Jessel herself appears to be some sort of witch, and the diploma on her wall from the infamous Tanz Akademie of Freiburg… the evil ballet school from Dario Argento’s “Suspiria”…. doesn’t surprise this wee Catgirl at all…. 😉
Naturally… it’s Anna who turns out to be Madam Jessel’s “treasure” and as our would be thieves all soon discover, is confined to her old room, a prisoner atop some macabre music box, and still trying to escape her mother’s control for reasons never adequately explained. Freeing her awakens Madam Jessel and then the creepy mother and daughter both begin to kill the brothers and seek to catch Lucie, each for their own reasons. Here the film gets very confusing at times… and we start to lose any coherent understanding of exactly what the heck is going on. Is Madam Jessel really a witch? Why is Anna so homicidal and crazy? So… ummm… Is she possessed? A vampire? Zombie maybe? And why the heck is the mansion shown to be floating in some sort of crazy dimensional pocket when you try to leave it at night? We never do figure it out. At least I know I didn’t. Neither did Carolyn…. who usually relies on me to shed some light on these sorts of stories once the weird stuff starts getting too darn weird for her.
Eventually, her boyfriend and his brother dead, Lucie gets caught by none other than Nurse Wilson who turns out to have been one of Madam Jessel’s old ballet students… and the only survivor it seems of that poor group of girls. She’s been protecting her old teacher for years waiting for just the right girl to come along so that Jessel can revive Anna by casting some goofy soul switching spell to give her daughter a less “living impaired” look, and I suppose, cure her crazy flesh eating habits. But mind you… I’m just guessing. By this time I honestly had no idea what was really going on…..
Once the big switcheroo has taken place… now the zombie body of Anna has those miss-matched eyes (so of course we know Lucie’s in there… Ahhh… so that’s why we needed that whole thing about her odd eyes….) and Anna… in Lucie’s body teams up with Lucie to kill her evil mother once and for all. Ok…. not certain why but hey…. it all makes about as much sense as the ending of our story which has our two girls… now allies, at the edge of a cliff overlooking the lonely sea where Anna/Lucie can watch Lucie/Anna in that zombie body fly off all happy into the sunrise…..
Say what? Yeah…. no kidding…. that’s really our film’s finish. I think Carolyn said it best when she turned to me and whispered in my lil’ ear “Ummm, Sweetie… no offense, but this is one really stupid ending.” Yep, I had to agree with her 100%. Unfortunately, I’m also thinking that’ll probably be a whole lot of people’s reaction to this one. That’s a really shame too, as “Livide” certainly is a good looking film with a very, very promising start…. and a dreamy fantastic look that works well in most parts throughout. It wants to be something different. Something that blends Gothic horror with an almost Grimm’s Fairytale feeling to try and be different than the same old boring “kids get killed in the old haunted house” story. The last time I saw something remotely like this was the Korean effort “Hansel & Gretel” from a few years back. But… whereas that film started out by taking as it’s premise a familiar fairy tale story and turning it into a modern horror story, “Livide” tries the reverse in taking a 70’s retro horror story and abruptly change gears about mid way along to make it into a dark fairytale with a far less real success. Mind you… it’s an interesting film…. I just wish it was a more understandable one.
So to wrap it up, I’d have to say this murky plot and terribly ambiguous ending have me giving “Livide” only 3 “Meows” out of 5. It could have gone all the way…. but to do that would have required a bit more story and a little less of the pretty imagery that left me scratching my wee noggin. The DVD? As with most French Region 2 discs I’ve encountered, it was excellent, in full widescreen format and with excellent easy to read English subtitles for my viewing pleasure. If you like, it’s available for a reasonable 16-20$ US, although I hear it’s soon to be released in the UK, and more than likely will eventually reach a DVD Region near you fairly soon if imports aren’t your thing.
We got that Trailer…. and as I’ve said, it’s certainly pretty, so take a peek for yourself and enjoy!!