by Steven Wandling
Joe Begos (Almost Human, The Mind’s Eye) has made a new vampire film called Bliss. Yet another vampire film you ask? Not in the slightest. Bliss is an ultraviolent, nasty little film and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. It’s the type of film that makes certain critics shudder with the very mention or reminder of their existence. Then, there’s people like me who love a good grainy, dirty, uncomfortable horror film that is just balls to the wall gonzo insanity from start to finish. Some would argue I relish in it, but nevertheless, Joe Begos knocks his new flick out of the park by staying true to his own vision that stands with everything from Martin (1977) to Let the Right One In (2008) in terms of challenging the very notion of what vampirism is or isn’t. Near Dark (1987) may actually make for a better comparison considering its nihilistic tone, but the point still stands. Bliss is a vampire film that defies the so-called established rules of the genre while still delivering some damn fine bloody vampire action throughout.
Bliss is absolutely Dezzy (Dora Madison Burge) ‘s story. Dezzy’s an artist with a lot of typical artist problems. She’s about to be evicted from her apartment, her sort of boyfriend/roommate Clive (Jeremy Gardner) constantly drags her down, she has substance abuse issues, her agent is dropping her, and it seems as though the early real success she had in the Los Angeles art world has already come and gone. The art world can be very fickle, and often yesterday’s overnight sensation can quickly turn into tomorrow’s cautionary tale. A long stretch of purposeful sobriety hasn’t even been able to help Dezzy with a piece that is long overdue and paid handsomely for in advance. Nothing seems to help until she contacts her old dealer Hadrian (Graham Skipper) and tries a new drug named Bliss, which is described as a mix of DMT and cocaine but honestly seems to have a little bit of just about everything.
After Dezzy does that first line of Bliss, the rest of the film is totally open for interpretation. She passes out on the floor, wakes up to a raging party of ethic gothic metal proportions, and reconnects with her old drug buddy Courtney (Tru Collins). The two of them go on an absolute bender to end all benders, they end up having a threesome with Courtney’s mysterious boyfriend Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield) who comes off like the bass player you don’t remember in Christian Death. Something happens during the heights of their drugged out sexual escapade that may or may not not have turned Dezzy into a vampire…if any of that happened at all.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if Bliss confuses the audience on plot points. It’s purposefully hallucinatory and is told from the perspective of the very unreliable (possibly) narrator that is Dezzy. After all, Bliss is her story. The film follows her through creative block to pure artistry through murder and mayhem in a chaotic ugly world fueled by sleazy nightlife decadence. Dezzy herself isn’t an especially likable person either, which only makes her seem all the more real. She can be funny and biting, but often times she’s just downright cruel to everyone around her.
After the first long night when Dezzy first gets introduced to Bliss and also maybe turns into a vampire, the film follows somewhat of a pattern as Dezzy has both mental breakdown and artistic breakthrough. In the end , she sacrifices everything for what she sees is her masterpiece. She develops an unquenchable thirst for blood that only compounds the destruction she leaves in her wake, running around goth clubs in LA drunk and stoned on all manner of narcotics. She’ll fight, but eventually give into the blood lust, black out, and wake up to more of her “masterpiece” being finished. There’s shades of The Devils’s Candy (2017) in the way the supernatural works through the art in Bliss, but the outcome of the supernatural entity is hopeful in The Devil’s Candy and destructive in Bliss.
The further Bliss goes on, it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening. Is Dezzy really a vampire that’s murdering people in the night to steal their blood for artistic inspiration and to quell her addiction? Or is she an actual drug addict that’s hooked on a powerful new narcotic, causing her to have terrifying hallucinations and get lost in the ideas behind her own work? The answers are really up to anyone in Bliss. Since I’m somewhat of a Philistine, I like to think that something happened that did turn Dezzy into an honest to Hell vampire, but the questions and ideas Bliss puts forward are far more interesting than any conclusion it possibly could have offered its viewers.
Regardless of whether or not Dezzy is a psychotic serial killer, a supernatural vampire out of control unaware of how to handle her powers, lost in a mental breakdown, or even dead from an overdose through most of the film’s run-time is entirely open to interpretation. There’s no disputing that Dezzy gave up everything for her art, and I do mean absolutely everything on every conceivable level and often in horrific fashion at the expense of everyone around her. Is any of that worth it? Do we, as the audience, have any idea the pressure we put on the artist? Or does none of it matter as long as we’re entertained in the end? A more positive reading is that Dezzy shed everything around her throughout Bliss that was holding her back from completing her work: the loafer roommate, the shitty drug friends, the hacky agent, even her own humanity. Maybe in the end, Dezzy’s true bliss was the work itself.
Bliss premiered on September 27, 2019 in select theaters and is currently streaming on various VOD platforms. Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read, please share with your horror loving friends! Follow creepylovely on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! If you would like to write for us, just shoot us a private message or DM on social media! Stay creepy!