Overlook Film Festival Review: BLISS

A punk rock pizza box of a movie.

Bliss is a punk rock pizza box of a movie - a loud, in-your-face, bloody-as-hell roar, equal parts vomit, phlegm and primal scream - from a team of filmmaking collaborators who wear their influences on their sleeves. It’s amazing, natch.

Dora Madison stars as Dezy for writer/director Joe Begos. Dezy is an artist stuck in a rut. Unable to finish a painting owed to a gallery, unable to pay her bills and unable to separate herself from a toxic relationship, Dezy is in need of inspiration. Looking for something that will expand her consciousness - and maybe also release her from the anxieties of her life - she turns to Bliss, a new drug that promises to be the best shit she’s ever snorted.

And it works! The drug sends her on a creative overload, putting Dezy in a blackout in which she will awaken with amazing work having been completed on her painting-in-progress. She’s artistically-inspired, sexually-awakened and all-in-all feeling better than she’s felt in a long time. Why, then, is she also craving blood? Why is she so prone to biting the faces off people and lapping up the mess? Why does her painting freak out those that glimpse it?

Begos, who also directed Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye, is a filmmaker who has a gift for taking his cinematic influences, melting them on a spoon under the fire of a cigarette lighter, soaking up the result into a cotton ball and then injecting the extremely potent cocktail of genre wonderment into audiences eyeballs, delivering something new and exciting born from the past. Bliss has references, either intentional or subconscious, to a wide array of films including Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, 25th Hour, The Evil Dead and The Hunger. Unlike many other filmmakers, though, Begos is not content just remaking the movies of his heroes. With Bliss, Begos has made a movie that feels urgent, alive and dangerous in a way that only a movie made today could feel. This is a film that shudders with filth - where every frame looks like it could give you hepatitis if you cut yourself on it. Throbbing music, bombastic lights and beautiful colors, all captured on Super 16mm, turn Bliss into an assault on eyeballs, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Special kudos goes to the special effects team of Josh and Sierra Russell who, along with the rest of the team, left the movie absolutely soaked in blood, slime, viscera and every other bodily fluid that was and was not meant to come out of a human being. The effects, like the film itself, pay tribute to the work that has come before, with call backs to Ghosts of SFX Past, but these displays of carnage exist organically within the film, never feeling like a special showcase shout-out or nostalgia-bait bragging rights. Bliss is a movie that is a whole within itself, not a collection of masturbatory call-backs to the VHS shelves of yesteryear.

Bliss is the type of movie that will permanently mess up any child who has a babysitter brazen enough to show it to them. Bliss is the type of movie that will unite the art house and the gorehound audience, sharing a single line of the movie like they were drug-fiend versions of the Lady and the Tramp. Bliss is the type of movie that will send you on into an internal tailspin about whether drugs or dangerous or cool as hell. Bliss is the type of movie that was meant to be seen with an audience, in a slightly musky movie theater where the floors are sticky with an unknown substance and the person sitting next to you smuggled a can of beer tucked into their tighty whities.

Bliss is the type of movie you’re going to dig, or else you’re a narc.