Bliss

Bliss is an incredibly effective, skillfully-made horror movie that I never want to see again. It's intended to be an unpleasant experience. Why would a filmmaker have the desire to punish the audience? Only director Joe Begos knows for sure. Still, he's in total control here, at every second. He does what he wants to do, and he does it unapologetically. Bliss is packed with wall-to-wall sex, nudity, profanity, drug use, heavy metal music, strobing lights, and gory violence. People die in ways I have never seen before onscreen. Does this sound like it's for you? If so, buckle up, because you won't go on a wilder ride all year.

Dora Madison, in an admirably fearless performance, plays Dezzy, a talented painter currently having a creative block. With a looming deadline, she visits her drug dealer in search of something that might get those juices flowing. He gives her a substance called Bliss, along with a warning that taking it produces a very intense high. Dezzy becomes instantly addicted upon taking the drug, and she develops a sudden thirst for blood. This leads to a wacked-out rampage that finds her looking for victims, in addition to creating what may be her most provocative painting ever.

Bliss is designed to replicate Dezzy's drug-fueled state. The camera swirls around like a fiend. The staccato editing makes you feel off-balance. Flashing lights add a hint of menace, and the metal music emphasizes the aggressiveness of her violent actions. Dezzy kills people, drinking their blood before snorting up more of the Bliss. That's the film. After 75 minutes, it's over, concluding in a literal blast of stomach-churning gore.

Begos (The Mind's Eye) wants to take the audience through Dezzy's hellish journey. He does so masterfully. Bliss is not a picture that can be enjoyed in any conventional sense. Nevertheless, it's hard not to admire what the director is doing. Begos absolutely accomplishes his mission. You feel like you've been through the wringer when it's over, just as intended.

In every sense, Bliss visually and tonally plunges the viewer into a harrowing nightmare. Madison helps make it authentic, and there are good supporting performances from genre-film favorites Graham Skipper and Jeremy Gardner, as well as from George Wendt. Yes, that George Wendt. You can't say the movie isn't consistently surprising.

Bliss is undeniably brutal. Many viewers will not want to subject themselves to what the film aspires to do. Totally understandable. That said, anyone in search of a balls-to-the-wall horror flick with the guts to unnerve audiences at a primal level is going to appreciate what Joe Begos and team pull off here. Bliss is, in its own twisted way, an act of cinematic bravery.


out of four

Bliss is unrated, but contains NC-17 levels of sex/nudity, graphic violence, drug use, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.