By Dr. Zaius
Monday, September 23rd, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Bliss Written, directed, produced by Joe Begos
Cast: Starring Dora Madison, Tru Collins, Jeremy Gardner, George Wendt, and Rhys Wakefield
Dark Sky Films
Runtime: 79 minutes
Release date: September 27, 2019
The story of struggling artists turning to drugs for breakthroughs is not exactly a new idea both in reality and in fiction. But I can guarantee no one has ever seen anything like Bliss, a grisly new horror film from Joe Begos (The Mind’s Eye). Coming to theaters and VOD on Friday, September 27th, Bliss is a brutal and gory film, featuring what will surely be a career-making performance from Dora Madison and providing a much-needed twist in a classic horror subgenre.
The struggling artist in question is Dezzy Donahue (Dora Madison). She’s past due on rent and trying to finish up a painting for her agent. Her schlubby boyfriend Clive (Jeremy Gardner) is not very helpful in dealing with these situations and so Dezzy looks for inspiration elsewhere. Elsewhere is her dealer Hardrian (Graham Skipper), who in a scene definitely inspired by John Travolta and Eric Stoltz’s heroin shopping scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, introduces her to Bliss, a new form of cocaine. And as promised, it knocks her on her ass. When she wakes up later, Hadrian’s house is in full strobe-light party mode and Dez meets with friends Courtney (Tru Collins) and Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield). More shots, more Bliss, and soon Dez is in for a wild debaucherous night that she literally won’t remember.
She also doesn’t remember painting more, but her painting is quickly growing and closer to completion. In fact, a second straight night of epilepsy-inducing partying leads to Dez getting sick and having a physical and mental breakdown. That is until Courtney rips open a girl in the bathroom for them to share. Soon Dez’s painting is beginning to look like a dark masterpiece. Is blood the missing ingredient? From this point on the film blossoms into a deeply unnerving and twisted take on the vampire film as Dez’s need for more Bliss escalates both her feral desires and her skills as an artist.
Begos does an amazing job shooting the film and putting the audience right into Dez’s mind. The cameras feel like they’re balloons floating around and getting all sorts of unnatural angles to enhance the trippy viewing experience. The loud punk and rock music, the flashing lights, and bright colors all help put us right in the shit with Dez. While this may be distracting for some (and the film does begin with a warning for the photo-sensitive), it reminded me of the works of Gaspar Noe and Nicolas Winding Refn, two filmmakers whose films are to be experienced and not necessarily enjoyed. Bliss is a perfect marriage of the two as it’s a visceral experience, but an enjoyable one especially for a hardcore horror fan. And as insane as this film becomes, following the de-evolution of this lead character, Begos takes us these crazy extremes in just 79 minutes.
Dora Madison is a revelation here. Known mostly for her TV work in series like Friday Night Lights, Dexter, and Chicago Fire, she gives a totally uninhibited performance in Bliss, evoking memories of Isabelle Adjani’s spellbinding turn in Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1980). Where other actresses might shy away from certain scenes in the scripts, Madison throws herself into it, managing to be a terrifying horror character as well as a sympathetic sufferer of addiction. This was an amazing, crazy tour-de-force performance and those final ten minutes need to be seen to be believed.
Bliss is 100% not for everyone. But it was 100% for me and is high on my list of top horror in 2019. Joe Begos’ direction makes for a psychedelic film viewing experience and he’s graced with a lead actress who just demands the attention of the audience.
Bliss hits theaters and is available on digital platforms this Friday, September 27th. I can promise you, you have never seen anything quite like it. Begos and Madison also just completed work on VFW, a film produced by Fangoria starring Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, and Fred Williamson.
4.5 out 5 stars. This is one of the bloody craziest and crazy bloodiest films of the year!