Few low rent horrors can boast as impressive visuals as Bliss. Joe Begos’s 16mm, handmade heavy metal nightmare is easily in league with, if not surpassing, some of the biggest and boldest studio movies on the map. Ferrera, Friedkin, Rodriguez and Bigelow all crammed into a piss-stained blender with the European extreme garnished on top for good measure. It’s a film that hangs on the very traditions of genre, maxing out the gore and grunge to a borderline ridiculous degree, whilst still holding tightly on to what put this whole movement in the spotlight to begin with – human stories about human fears, thrown through the nastiest kaleidoscope imaginable.
Baked not only in the steely neons of a classic drug trip, but the sticky browns and sickly tar of that world’s reality, Bliss is an often obscenely dark spin on the artist in crisis; celebrated painter Dezzy gets clean but finds the fire in her work flushed away with the last of her tricky habits. At a particularly grim loose end, on the edge of eviction and dropped by her agent, she takes another tumble down the rabbit hole, going in hard on a brand new batch even her dealer (a fantastically bearded Graham Skipper) warns her off of.
What follows is a stunningly grimy, beautifully fucked-up journey through the very darkest recesses of the art world; never pretentious and always lovingly devoted to being as hardcore as humanly possible. This isn’t trippiness for trippy-sake; instead a hard-nosed celebration of the messiness of horror; blood, bile and blown-out pupils galore.
The deeper into the mania Dezzy falls, the deeper into the genre Begos climbs, subtly firing the whole thing into the vampire world but without ever compromising the initial set-up. In fact, if it wasn’t for Begos himself calling it so, you might even struggle to pigeonhole it in such a way; Bliss is so much more than a bloody vamp flick destined for the genre shelf. It’s an experience, the gnarliest shit, told imaginatively, and without an ounce of pomp or camp.
It almost goes without saying, but to see Bliss’s grungy, grained-up super-16, on a giant screen, with a hefty sound system and the attention of a die hard audience, is one of the highest pleasures any horror fan can find. A true rock ’n’ roll shot to the system, designed the churn stomachs and question sanities, just as the hardcore legends intended.
Bliss was screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.