You will know within the first 15 minutes of Jeff Begos’ ultra-violent, phantasmagoric horror feature Bliss whether you can handle the remaining 65. The violence gets extreme at certain moments and while that is nothing new, it’s Begos’ approach the subject matter that doubles down on the grotesque nature of the film.
Bliss is about a young painter, Dezzy (Dora Madison), in Los Angeles who has been commissioned to paint a piece for a client. Dezzy is stuck in a rut and can’t find inspiration. She’s behind on rent and needs some sort of spark to get her going. She needs it as she only has days to turn in a final product.
One night, sitting alone in her apartment and needing to get her work done, she does what all responsible adults do: she decides to accept an invitation to go out and party. Dezzy does incredible amounts of drugs during the evening. If this wasn’t a horror movie, I’d really question how she was even standing by the end of the night. But I digress. Dezzy ends up meeting a random girl and they do some seriously bad narcotics.
The next day, Dezzy wakes up and has a craving she’s never felt before. A craving for blood. As I said earlier, I think the violence, while extreme, would be easier to handle if it wasn’t for Begos going complete Gaspar Noe with his camera work and his hallucinogenic coloring. After Dezzy transforms into this monster craving human blood, the film turns into a seriously bad trip.
“I started painting again…”
Begos also shoots in 16mm which adds a ton of grain to the film. This is an aesthetic I love but coupled with his choice for dizzying camera movement, it creates a total nightmare state. You’ll either love it or hate it. I personally love when a filmmaker just goes for it.
A big issue I had with Bliss is that pretty much everyone in the film is an asshole. There’s not one character to connect with and feel empathy with. When Dezzy turns, you really don’t care, because she was terrible, to begin with. But I also don’t think Begos cares either. I think he’s all in on his style.
Whether you dig Bliss or not depends on what you’re willing to tolerate. I personally loved Begos’ vision even if the story was pretty weak. But the performances are good as well and there aren’t many filmmakers out there in the genre willing to go all-in with their visions. How’s this for an idea: throw this on with Luz and have yourself a 16mm horror double feature. Now there’s a good evening.
Overall Score 2.5/5
Bliss begins streaming this week exclusively to Shudder.