Apparently, art is a cruel profession. Just in 2019 alone, Velvet Buzzsaw, The Perfection, and Gasper Noe’s Climax have all set their respective horrors in the world of art. Now writer and director Joe Begos’ indie horror movie, Bliss, promises a drug-fueled orgy of blood and sex as a painter descends into madness. To date, buzz surrounding Bliss has been mostly positive. And the promotional materials promise a visually arresting mix of Requiem for a Dream and Panos Comastos’ Mandy.
Artist Dezzy is stuck in her worst artistic block. Three months have passed since she painted anything. Now her agent is dumping her, her landlord is demanding rent, and an increasingly impatient gallery owner is setting a hard deadline. Hoping to open the creative floodgates, Dizzy pays a visit to her drug dealer, who passes on a designer drug that he claims is ‘bonkers’. Soon thereafter, Dezzy finds inspiration and her latest painting takes shape. But it comes at a price. With each passing night, Dezzy grows more unhinged and consumed with a lust for blood.
Bliss a Visually Frenetic Descent Into Madness
How many movies have you seen that open with a warning about flashing lights and seizures? And writer/director Joe Begos delivers on that promise from the opening credits. Simply put, Bliss is a dizzying, frenetic viewing experience. If Begos’ intent was to drop the audience into Dezzy’s drug-fuel slip into a hallucinogenic hell, he’s succeeded. Cinematographer Mike Testin washes the movie’s daytime scenes in washed out colours. Comparatively, Testin’s club scenes and nighttime landscapes are all flashing strobe lights vivid blue, green, and reds. Similarly, editor Josh Ethier to the movie’s overall disorienting, hallucinogenic nightmare with scattershot cuts. Steve Moore’s punk-fueled soundtrack propels this frantic feel in the background.
… Bliss may be the goriest movie of 2019.
Though Bliss initially feels more like a Requiem for a Dream-cautionary tale about drug use, Begos abruptly shifts course into horror territory. As Dezzy’s drug and lurid sexual journey becomes a vampire-like bloodlust, Bliss turns up the gore from 0 to 100. If Bliss draws early comparisons to Requiem for a Dream and Mandy, it’s back-half is reminiscent of Abel Ferrara’s Grindhouse flick, The Driller Killer. Fingers and flesh are bitten off in gruesome details. Expect some impressive practical effects that may turn some viewers’ stomachs. Begos spares no amount of blood to bring his nightmarish concept to life. As a result, Bliss may be the goriest movie of 2019.
Indie Pacing Incoherent Storytelling Slow Things Down
Picking at story in movies like Bliss is always difficult. Artistically, Bliss is is more experience than narrative. In this regard, Bliss is a disturbing journey that feels every bit like a nightmare. But it’s still somewhat of a confusing, disjointed movie. Like other ‘mumblegore’ movies, Begos strikes a patient approach, dropping us right alongside Dezzy as she walks through her chaotic life. As characters pop up, you may struggle figuring out where they fit in. And Begos expends little effort on the ‘whys’ or hows’. Moreover, Begos plays with a few different themes. At times, it’s not always clear what Begos wants to say.
Bliss Anchored by Dora Madison’s Performance
As struggling painter ‘Dezzy’, Dora Madison is as entrancing as the movie’s hypnotic visuals. Specifically, Madison delivers a commanding and challenging performance. She’s on screen for virtually the entirety of the movie, so all eyes are on her. What’s particularly impressive with the performance is that ‘Dezzy’ isn’t a particularly likable character. In fact, none of the characters who turn up in Bliss are likely to elicit much in the way of empathy. Ultimately, Dezzy is a trainwreck of a character from the get-go, part arrogant artist, part spaced out junkie. But Madison nails these traits, thus making her bloody deterioration more harrowing.
Bliss a Bloody, Hypnotic Viewing Experience
Less a coherent story, more a nightmarish visual descent into madness, Bliss may be 2019’s most interesting horror movie. Like his painter character, Begos throws a lot of different things into this movie. At times, Bliss is a cautionary tale of the dangers of drugs, striking a similar tone to Requiem for a Dream. Throw in some vampire allusions with hypnotic lust and blood. What you get in the end is a dizzying, hypnotic, and gory descent in to what plays out more like a nightmare, making Bliss one of 2019’s bolder movies.