After making us wait four years between films Joe Begos (Almost Human) has delivered two this year. Bliss is about the go into release and VFW which is starting its festival tour. His films tend to have their inspiration in the genre’s classics. The Mind’s Eye could be and updated version of Scanners and the plot of VFW screams Assault On Precinct 13. Bliss uses Abel Ferrara’s infamous Driller Killer as a starting point before going off on a rampage of chemically induced blood thirst.
Bliss, I should point out, begins with a well-deserved warning about strobe lights and seizures. If it applies to you, take it seriously as there are a huge amount of flashing lights in this film, starting with the credits.
Dezzy (Dora Madison, The Honor Farm, Night Of The Babysitter) is an artist. An artist suffering from a massive case of blockage. She can’t seem to finish her latest painting and everyone from her landlord to her agent are unhappy about this. She decides to take what money she has left and visit drug dealer Hadrian (Graham Skipper, Beyond The Gates, Sequence Break) who hooks her up with something described as a combination of uncut cocaine and DMT. One neon-lit threesome later she finds her creativity has returned. She also seems to have developed a need to drink blood.
Apart from using metal on the soundtrack, Bliss certainly catches the spirit of punk and grindhouse. That, however, is a mixed blessing. Having a cast of obnoxious, we don’t care what you think about us, type characters make it very hard to get into the film. Ideally, you want to be able to cheer for the victims or at least enjoy their deaths at the hands of a charismatic villain like Dexter or Freddy Kruger. Here though, everybody sucks and I wanted them all dead.
Thankfully once the killing starts we get plenty of dead assholes. Granted it takes until 50 minutes into an 80-minute film for it to happen but it makes up for lost time fast. This isn’t a couple of fangs in the neck blood-drinking. Fingers are bitten off, chunks of flesh ripped out of bodies, etc. And all done with exceptionally realistic practical effects and shot on 16mm film to add to the retro feel.
This, plus one of the most absolutely batshit insane finales I’ve ever seen redeem Bliss. Yes, it could have been better. Probably a lot better with a few tweaks, (so to speak), but it’s still well above average.
Dark Sky Films will release Bliss September 27th in theaters and on digital platforms.