Shudder UK film review: Bliss
Ivan Radford | On 13, Mar 2020
Director: Joe Begos
Cast: Dora Madison
Watch Bliss online in the UK: Shudder UK
“It’s gonna be my masterpiece.” Those are the ambitious words of Dezzy (Dora Madison), an artist who is going through something of a creative block. And so she turns to drastic measures to find inspiration – she takes an extremely hallucinogenic drug, which sends her on a disorienting trip into warped darkness.
The fact that the film is described as a vampire movie gives you a clue where Joe Begos’ horror is headed, but what you won’t quite be prepared for is the journey that gets you there. Playing out like a cross between Nic Cage oddity Vampire’s Kiss and Gaspar Noe’s Climax, it’s a relentless ride through increasingly depraved territory that dives deep, early and often – and doesn’t come up for breath.
There’s breathing space to begin with, though, and you’re advised to make the most of it, as we see Dezzy pacing around her LA loft, smoking and evading paying her landlord the rent that’s long since overdue. Filmed on 16mm, there’s gritty, low-rent feel that ensures we’re on the same level as her – and then, just as we’re settled, we’re upended into a vivid, strobing, body-contorting, sensory-overloading hellscape. There’s an element of irritation to the end result, not least because Dora Madison plays Dezzy with such a committed shallow streak – this is not a movie to watch if you’re looking for deep, engaging, likeable characters – but Begos does find some grimy depths in a tale that highlights the dangers of addiction through parallels with vampiric lore.
Whether that will be to everyone’s taste is a debate worth having, but on a purely visceral note, this short, sharp dose of intense cinema a dizzying rush to experience. Bliss? Not likely, but it’s certainly something.