Following their savage home-invasion shocker “Inside,” horror-buff co-helmers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo go for the gothic with “Livid,” an inferior thriller that nonetheless finds the French filmmakers unleashing a handful of memorably nasty images. Tale of a young nurse-in-training who gets menaced by vampiric ballerinas while seeking hidden treasure in the old, dark house of an evidently comatose crone, the pic is so eager to go over the top that, in the end, it doesn’t make much sense. Still, this Dimension Films pickup delivers enough stylish jolts and giggles to sustain the interest of discerning gore-hounds.
Early on, the movie’s 20-ish heroine (Chloe Coulloud), whose differently colored eyes give her a spooky look of her own, encounters an unconscious old woman (Marie-Claude Pietragalla) who breathes like Darth Vader from a gigantic mask strapped to her withered face. While being trained in the basics of elder care by the callous Mrs. Wilson (Catherine Jacob), Coulloud’s cash-poor Lucie learns that the bedridden Mrs. Jessel, a former dance instructor, has a fortune stashed away somewhere in the recesses of her dilapidated mansion.
Over beers on Halloween night, Lucie’s fisherman beau (Felix Moati) and his brother (Jeremy Kapone) persuade the young nurse to break into the house with them and look for the loot. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go according to plan for the trio. First, they accidentally lock themselves inside the pitch-black house. Then they’re driven nuts by fleeting glimpses of mounted animal heads, life-like mannequins dressed as ballerinas, and bizarre taxidermy tools. (Maury and Bustillo prove fond of false scares to a fault.) And then the group discovers that old Mrs. Jessel isn’t fully bedridden after all.
From here, “Livid” throws elements of a half-dozen horror subgenres at the wall to see what sticks, tossing in slashers, flesh-eaters, eye-stitching freaks, butterflies emerging from human mouths, a floating ghost-cum-angel, and Beatrice Dalle as Lucie’s mom. Exactly how all these terrors fit together isn’t clear, and the writer-directors don’t establish enough of a camp vibe to signal that the pic ought to be taken that way.
To their credit, though, Maury and Bustillo work wonders with castmembers young and (very) old, while the reliably sharp editing of mononymous Baxter cuts to the bone and beyond. Visual effects are, like the narrative, all over the place, but other tech credits hit the mark, including Raphael Gesqua’s pulsing score and multichannel sound work that more than compensates for what d.p. Laurent Bares prefers to keep in the dark.