When Shudder Canada added Bliss to their catalogue I was very excited. I watched it that very night and was blown away! I have been hesitant about new vampire films because it just seemed like rehashing of the usual vampiric tropes (human vs. vampires, vampires falling in love, vampires vs. other supernatural creatures) but this Indie gem’s twist on the modern vampire was refreshing! I love everything about this film and it is why I chose to highlight it for this month’s pick.
Bliss (2019) was written and directed by newcomer Joe Begos (VFW, The Mind’s Eye and Almost Human) starring Dora Madison as struggling artist Dezzy Donahue who descends into madness and transformation as she takes the hallucinogenic drug, Diablo, to overcome her creative block. The actress who plays Dezzy is bold and beautiful; she gives the character that edgy and sexy but vulnerable look, while at the same time struggling with a crisis of identity due to the stagnation in her career and desperation to make ends meet. Dezzy, having been clean for three months, returns to the drug Bliss to jump-start her creativity but ends up at a house party with old friends, Courtney and Ronnie. The night goes from bingeing on drugs and alcohol to a threesome that finds Dezzy in the throes of ecstasy of a vampire’s kiss.
The rest of Bliss follows Dezzy as she experiences the visceral transformation of becoming a vampire and craving a new type of drug, blood. This new ‘drug’ helps end her creative block and she begins to paint what she calls her masterpiece, which evolves into something more hellish after each time she satiates her bloodlust. Dezzy tries to control her urges for blood with drugs but the blood withdrawals are too strong; as an addict Dezzy finds herself in a frenzy at the sight of blood and with supernatural strength, she leaves a trail of bodies behind her as she works to complete her art while also feeding her hunger. This is when Dezzy begins to lose her grip on reality in the desperate attempt to keep feeling the same high she had from the night prior -- the blood high.
What I also love about Bliss are memorable scenes and specific moments throughout the film. The scenes when Dezzy gives in to her blood lust are full of violence, blood and gore that is at a Fulci level, or when Dezzy is in a state of either complete bliss or calm, especially when she is seen driving down an LA street late at night with her face smeared with blood and wearing sunglasses as if nothing had happened. And I am obsessed with both the “fake” out ending and it’s actually ending. Dezzy completes her masterpiece in a highly aroused ritual dance as she has embraced her immortality - but not in the way that you would think.
Bliss is a blood-fueled psychedelic trip in 80 minutes. The aesthetic is very grunge/gothic with solid black backdrops and low lighting to really highlight the contrast of the red blood in many of the scenes. This film also falls into the trippy horror sub-genre like Mandy (2018) and The Colour Out of Space (2019) with slow surreal scenes and the blend of neon purples, pinks and blues accompanied with the intense psychedelic rock, punk, metal and witchhouse music. I definitely recommend watching Bliss in complete darkness and with a glass (or two) of wine (or something else) to get the full impact.