Thursday, October 31, 2019

Bliss – review

Director: Joe Begos

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

Whilst the blurb I read for this movie didn’t mention vampirism, there are reviews out in the wide-open spaces of the internet that do mention this as a vampire film and so the fact that I am reviewing this doesn’t overly spoil what is to come.

I have seen parallels drawn between this and the Addiction but whilst the earlier film and this touch upon the pain and need of addiction they are very different beasts. This is a much more neon affair (the Addiction being a black and white film, of course) and had a psychedelic quality that reminded me a little of Mandy (2018).

Clive and Dezzy
The film starts (after a warning about the use of flashing lights in the film) with Dezzy (Dora Madison) stood before a canvas. Her boyfriend, Clive (Jeremy Gardner), is there and she admits she has been stood before it for an hour – she has, we discover, been suffering an artistic block for 3-months. She has an appointment but Clive needs a lift and makes her late, she also has a run in with her building manager – she is behind with the rent.

using Diablo
The appointment is with her agent (Chris McKenna), who informs her that gallery owner Nikki (Rachel Avery) hasn’t sold any of the paintings she has for some time and, with the new piece behind schedule (having paid a large advance for it), she is considering dropping her. He then drops her as a client himself. A desperate Nikki contacts Hadrian (Graham Skipper), a friendly drug dealer, despite having been clean through the creatively dry period. He shows her three drugs – one of them, Diablo, is described as Cocaine cut with DMT. She takes a sample and is floored, literally.

meeting Courtney
By the time she comes round there is a party going on and she indulges in more drugs and alcohol before bumping into an old friend, Courtney (Tru Collins) and her boyfriend. Courtney persuades Dezzy to stay at the party and there is copious drug and alcohol consumption until they end up having a drug fuelled threesome. During this we see Courtney with blood at her mouth and Dezzy with blood on her neck, though it is a glimpse and the film doesn’t concentrate on it.

Courtney attacks
Dezzy goes home the next day and actually paints – though she doesn’t remember doing so, describing it like being possessed. She becomes convinced through the film that the drugs (she describes them as Bliss, not Diablo) are giving her the inspiration. She meets up with Courtney again but becomes ill and throws up blood in a toilet, before witnessing Courtney attack a woman, and then two dancing together and then waking naked on the floor before the painting that she has done more work on.

suicide attempt
It becomes clear as the film moves on that it is blood that is motivating her, not the drugs, and there is quite a trail of bodies. So, with the vampirism, a bite turns (there is an inference that Courtney has been cleaning up after Dizzy and using her friend for her blood, rich in alcohol and drugs as it is) and the vampire is eternal unless the heart is destroyed. If the heart is destroyed the vampire essentially melts away. Other injuries are quickly repaired – such as Dezzy trying to commit suicide, blowing a hole in the side of her head with a gun and her face quickly repairing.

Dora Madison as Dezzy
So the film's biggest negative is the actual characters. Dezzy is the best drawn and she is two dimensional, we get little character development and she is simply a queen bitch to everyone – so we have little sympathy for her. The other characters are substantially thinner. That’s not to say that the performances are bad. On the contrary, the performances are strong despite the thin characterisation, especially Dora Madison’s decent into paranoia. The film captures a real feel of anxiety and pain and that is its strength. The film draws this through performance, through camera work and through hallucinations (such as Dezzy believing the shower is covering her in blood rather than water and seeing herself in the mirror bleeding and moving independently of her real self).

the mirror lies
There is a fair amount of gore and those effects are well done, or the lighting and camerawork are clever enough to hide the joins. The melting is perhaps not as well done but such scenes are briefly done. This is a ride, and it isn’t a pleasant one – taking you into realms of apprehension, hurt and nightmares. This is perhaps why Dezzy is not drawn sympathetically and I can respect the decision to draw her like that but it does mean that the viewer is indifferent to her fate. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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