Sunday, February 2, 2020

BLISS (2019) Blu-ray Review

Bliss (2019) d. Joe Begos (USA) (80 min)

Unable to finish her newest commissioned work, struggling visual artist, Dezzy (Dora Madison) looks to reignite her creative juices by boozing, swearing, and snorting her way through every house party and metal bar she can find. After a few nights in the company of her friends (and sometimes lovers) Courtney (Tru Collins) and Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield), Dezzy is finally painting again, but she also finds herself hooked on a new blend of sniffable narcotics and developing a strange desire for… blood.

Having already conjured his low-budget/high-energy versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Almost Human) and Scanners (The Mind’s Eye), writer/director Begos now turns his gaze toward the vampire myth with a balls-to-the-wall visual rollercoaster hell-bent on making your eardrums bleed and peopled with fresh indie faces like Collins (The Price), Wakefield (Plus One), Graham Skipper (Beyond the Gates), and Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) alongside TV veterans like George Wendt (Cheers) and Abraham Benrubi (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose), with Madison (Exists) delivering a fearless physical central performance that is simultaneously off-putting and magnetic.

(Yes, that was all one sentence. And yes, that’s how watching this movie feels.)

The end result, an energetic, ferocious, and punishing assault on the senses (in keeping with Begos’ penchant for homage, think Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction by way of Requiem for a Dream with a dose of Gaspar Noe), features numerous explosive scenes of violence and gore and virtuosic camera moves and psychedelic lighting. There’s a lot to like here, although I personally would have appreciated it more had it not been QUITE as in-your-face and had its main character not been QUITE so self-centered and unpleasant. But, perhaps, that is also kind of the point, since I get the impression that this is Begos’ M.O. and Dezzy is clearly a stand-in for The Man Himself.

Case in point: Last summer at Cinepocalypse, Begos, producer Josh Ethier, and Skipper were on hand for a post-show Q&A, and I found myself more than a little annoyed by Begos’ bragging about having shot the entire film “without any fucking permits,” as well as being deeply disturbed when he revealed that much of the script was written during alcohol-and-drug-induced blackouts, i.e. he would wake up in the morning and see pages written on the computer that he had no idea how they got there. Um, that’s a problem, Joe.

Even worse, however, was watching Skipper and Ethier nodding approvingly, as if to say, “Yeah, that’s just his creative process.” That’s called enabling, gentlemen, and if/when Begos ends up dead someday as a result, I will be looking back on that day with deep chagrin that nobody in his “close circle of collaborators” said or did anything to help.

All that said, I’m eager to see what his latest, VFW, has to offer, since it will be his first time working with a script not of his own, ahem, imagining. Because while Begos may not traffic in original ideas or nuance, what he does have is energy, enthusiasm, and visual style to burn, which counts for a lot in my book.


Audio commentary with director Joe Begos and actor Dora Madison

Audio commentary with director Joe Begos, producer Josh Either, and the Russell FX Team

Deleted Scene (2 min)

Theatrical Trailer

Teaser Trailer

Bliss is available now on Blu ray from DarkSky Films and can be ordered HERE:

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