Uncovering Curiosities: Joe Begos’ BLISS

 

Bliss is a wonderfully crazy gonzo 2019 horror film from cult director Joe Begos. It’s a gritty piece of punk rock cinema, a hallucinogenic vampire film which isn’t afraid to go to weird places (very weird places). It’s dark, nasty and it packs one hell of a punch. It’s one crazy ride, if you dive-in head first. 

Dora Madison is Dezzy, an artist with a big commission who just can’t finish her latest painting. Dezzy scores a new drug called ‘Diablo’ from her dealer (Graham Skipper) and soon her troubles seem to be behind her as she acquires off-the-chart inspiration for her new artwork. A series of blackouts leads Dezzy to suspect that Diablo might not be the healthiest thing to be ingesting – but by then it’s too late…

Begos, cinematographer Mike Testin and editor Josh Ethier have delivered a film with a whiplash inducing visual style. It gives the film the vibrant energy of a two-minute punk rock song. Bliss is a neon-fuelled slice of horror cinema, which also works a sort of Lynchian weird-out flick. In a way, it’s a lot like the the 1988 Nicolas Cage starrer Vampire’s Kiss – it’s a vampire film without any real vampires. It’s all about the idea of unquenchable thirst. 

Madison carries a lot of heavy lifting as our the lead character,  who slowly spirals into oblivion. It’s a brave performance which is subtle in a film with a lot of over-the-top elements. Meanwhile, co-star Jeremy Gardner (who is becoming a Movies In Focus favourite following Bliss and After Midnight) delivers some impressive support as her partner who doesn’t quite understand how weird things are getting. 

Joe Begos is quietly becoming one of our great low-budget genre film auteurs. He understands the tone of the movies he makes and he knows how to take his audience on one hell of a journey. Bliss is one such journey.