It’s been ages since I’ve seen something as viscerally thrilling as Bliss. Horror movies in recent years have shifted away from gore and gallons of blood to psychological and more intimate fare, but you can only be psychologically stimulated for so long. Sometimes you just want to see blood spew out of an open neck wound like a tube of tooth paste. I have nothing more to say besides Bliss gets the job done in spades and will leave you 100% satisfied with the carnage that it brings.
Director: Joe Begos
Release Date: April 27, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Dezzy (Dora Madison) is an artist who’s had an artist’s block for three months and now she needs to get a painting done for a gallery in less than a week. She’s in a relationship that could be much better than it is, she’s overdue on her rent, and she’s decided to mellow all of this out by going to the her dealer and get a new kind of drug called Bliss, which is pretty much every drug under the sun thrown into one super drug. After doing enough Bliss to down an elephant, she has one hell of a rager with her friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and wakes up with a surprising amount of progress done on the painting, but with one twist. She wakes up with an insatiable lust for blood. Surprise! She’s a vampire now!
The hardest thing about reviewing these Tribeca movies is that the majority of them are designed to be reviewed in a specific way. They’re meant to be analyzed and parsed over with a fine-tooth comb to examine the inner workings of why they work and the themes they’re trying to get across. That’s all well and good, but Bliss isn’t that kind of movie. It’s a grindhouse/arthouse horror movie that drops all pretenses about having a deep evocative center and throws out as much hallucinogenic imagery and carnage as possible. A part of me just wants to play curator to the violence because that’s the real hook of the movie.
Sure, I could talk about how Madison commands the entire movie and forces you to sympathize with how her life spirals out of control. I could talk about how the soundtrack is stuffed with an excellent selection of death metal that makes a hard movie even harder. I could even spend time explaining how the constants fucks and shits every character says every other line makes the movie hilarious with how edgy it is, but none of that matters because the gore, which is all practical mind you, is mindbogglingly good.
Wanna see a vampire rip off a guy’s head and drink the blood gushing from his neck? Bliss has you covered. Wanna see that same guy melt into a pile of goop while screamo blares over his corpse? Well guess what Bliss decides to do. Would you like to see two vampires wrestle in a pool of blood, with one of them eating the other’s damn eyeballs before exploding in the sunlight? You better believe that Bliss does that.
The movie does start off slow, taking about a half hour before we get to any of the chaos, but it’s a necessary evil. You can’t just begin a gruesome slaughter house movie at an 11. You have to have a slow and gentle buildup to get the blood pumping then slowly ween viewers into the volatile vampiric violence. You know it’s going to be a special kind of horror movie when the first show of terror is when Dezzy vomits a metric ton of blood before another vampire smashes a person’s head against a wall to quench their thirst. Just when you think the movie is slowing down and can’t ratchet up the tension more, Bliss consistently one-ups itself at every turn.
The visuals are just as chaotic, with bright lights and crazy camera angles that make you feel like you’re on the same drugs that Dezzy is on. There’s always motion and while some may argue that it’s disorienting, I would say that it makes the viewer go to the edge of insanity with Dezzy. When I’m actively saying “what the fuck” at every turn from how every shot becomes more claustrophobic and drives home a palpable sense of fear, you did a damn good job at editing and cinematography.
Like the drug Dezzy takes, Bliss is something that comes with a warning. Once it gets going, it doesn’t stop and will leave no prisoners. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll have a blast as the pretty colors and gruesome visuals overtake you. What’s not to love about a little bit of polished ultra-violence with a great lead actress and fantastic direction?