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BLISS ****

Directed by Joe Begos. Starring Dora Madison, Tru Collins, Jeremy Gardner. Horror, USA, 80 mins.

Released by EUREKA in the UK on 10th February 2020. £11.99.

Order here  https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/bliss/

 

In his third feature, Joe Begos delves into new and more personal territory with Bliss, a wild, in your face cinematic equivalent of a hardcore punk song that is equal parts cautionary drug addiction tale and vampirism story. Where Begos paid homage to the glory days of 80s make-up and FX driven genre fare with his first two features he steps boldly into new territory here showing what he is capable of with this take on an artist's creative struggle that descends into blood and madness.

 

Young L.A. artist Dezzy, Dora Madison, is being hassled by everyone from gallery owners desperate for her next painting to her angry landlord looking for last months rent for her large studio apartment. Like any sensible person wouldn't she goes out into the neon-lit night and scores a copious amount of a new drug named Bliss from her friendly dealer Hadrian, played by Begos' usual collaborator Graham Skipper. Warned that the drug is a potent mix of cocaine and DMT that should be taken in moderation Dezzy throws caution to the wind and sniffs down as much as she can and then has some more. As out of control as she is, things reach a tipping point with the arrival of her friend Courtney, Tru Collins. After a particularly graphic and epic party scene blood-drinking comes into the mix igniting a creative spark within Dezzy as well as a hunger that can only be sated with more drugs and blood, no matter where the next fix comes from.

 

BLISS is a confrontational film that is not for everyone. Dezzy is a profoundly unlikeable character; selfish and seriously foul-mouthed, roughly two-thirds of the dialogue consists of the word fuck and its many variations. Madison gives a committed performance that offers no quarter or makes any concessions to likability or sympathy. Begos frames her through a stylised lens that recalls the glory days of 1990's alternative MTV accompanied by its grunge soundtrack. The effects of all this combined, especially when seen projected on a big cinema screen is intoxicating with scuzzy energy that buzzes from the opening frames to the last.

 

Filmed on Super 16mm and blown up BLISS is easily Begos' most visually distinctive film yet. This Los Angeles is one lit by neon in near-perpetual dusk as Dezzy drives the street prowling for her next fix for inspiration. The driving scenes, filmed without a permit in the literal slipstream of Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOODs copious driving scenes recall Michael Mann's 1980's output and its theme of dependency and losing control reminds Frank Henenlotter's BRAIN DAMAGE. Begos admitted in the Q&A that his creative struggles aided by alcohol inspired his script here.

 

Such a personal admission is reflected in the films raw emotional rage and perhaps reflects Begos' creative drive. BLISS seems like a creative purging that reveals a new and exciting direction for Begos in the future as a writer and director. As mentioned earlier, the films rough edges couldn't care less attitude may turn off as many people as those who will love it for precisely those reasons. At eighty minutes it speeds by, and some strands may be less developed than others, but if you have ever wanted to see Norm from CHEERS get violently attacked by a vampiric junkie, then BLISS is a must-see. One of the most personal films at this years FrightFest, this will surely go down as a cult favourite in years to come.

 

Special features -  1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray, 5.1 DTS-HD MA and uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio options, Optional English subtitles, Brand new audio commentary with film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan (Daughters of Darkness podcast), Audio commentary with director Joe Begos and actress Dora Madison, Audio Commentary by director Joe Begos, producer Josh Ethier, and the Russell FX team, Deleted Scene, Trailer.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

 

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