November 13, 2019

BLISS: Grand Guignol on Acid
BLISS (2019)
Starring Dora Madison, Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield, Jeremy Gardner, Graham Skipper, Rachel Avery, George Wendt. Directed by Joe Begos. (80 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾

Dezzy (Dora Madison) is your standard-issue starving artist. She’s strapped for cash, behind on the rent, hasn’t sold a painting in months and is struggling to finish her latest “masterpiece.” Worse yet, her agent just dumped her because she couldn’t deliver it when promised.

What to do? Why, snort yourself into oblivion, of course, which is what Dezzy proceeds to do with a potent cocaine-like black powder called Diablo. But not-only does the drug hasten her creativity, it eventually instills an insatiable craving for human blood. I say eventually because the first half of the film is little more than one woman’s descent into a long drug & sex fueled weekend, punctuated by hyperactive editing, strobe lights, a blaring metal soundtrack and a variety of other visual gymnastics. It sorta plays like an extended Marilyn Manson video.

Bliss opens with a title card warning of the effects its visual style may have on some viewers. Instead, what they should have done is give the viewer a heads-up they’ll be spending 80 minutes with a main character with no redeeming traits whatsoever. Right from the get-go, Dezzy is obnoxious, egocentric, confrontational, belligerent, short-tempered and bitchy to everybody (including her friends). Madison gives an uninhibited performance, but her journey into madness and vampirism carries no dramatic weight because at-no-point does Dezzy display any remotely likable qualities.

"Slay-er! Slay-er! Slay-er!"
So what we’re left with is writer-director Joe Begos’ hallucinatory grand-standing, which in-effect makes him the actual star of the film. Visually, he does some impressive things and the dizzying camerawork keep things interesting for awhile. But it isn’t long before the viewer is convinced he’s simply showing off and doesn’t really have anything of substance to say.

There are some admittedly bravura moments during the ultra-gory final act which can best be described as Grand Guignol on acid. Considering the film’s budget, the special effects are pretty convincing and gloriously gruesome. For some, these scenes nearly make the interminable first half worth enduring. But for the most part, Bliss is an overbearing exercise in self-indulgence. While well-made and initially interesting to look at, it’s narratively vapid and ultimately feels longer than its relatively scant running time.

AUDIO COMMENTARIES - #1 by director Joe Begos & Dora Madison, #2 by Begos, producer Josh Ethier & “the Russell FX Team.”

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