Bliss Explained-It’s About More Than Vampires
Bliss is a confusing mish-mash of competing ideas that come together to form an immersive, wholly disgusting experience that is wildly successful.
Bliss is one woman’s drug-fueled journey to create her next great work of art. Dezzy (Dora Madison) is the aforementioned artist who gives every indication of being the disaffected youth she pretends to be. A literal tortured artist Dezzy wants to be rich and famous and simultaneously not a sell-out.
Heavy Spoilers Ahead…………
She is abrasive, condescending, and desperate to paint her next masterpiece. After a creative block stalls her progress she seeks inspiration from her drug dealer friend who sends her spiraling through one blood-soaked night after another. A sexual encounter that leaves her with more than a hangover and venereal disease is just the beginning. Buckets of blood, booze, and drugs later Dezzy is starting to change. The good news is, all that blood gives her the push she needs to paint again. The bad news is, she might be becoming a vicious vampire.
It’s hard to tell if director Joe Begos is skewering the art scene for its flagrant exploitation of artists like Netflix’s deliciously black Velvet Buzzsaw, or a grotesque character study of addiction like Requiem for a Dream. A third possibility and potentially the most honest is a flat out horror movie about becoming a monster. If the latter is true Begos films will be a hit for lovers of hard core horror. It’s disorienting, gory, and very graphic. There is no one in the film that isn’t abhorrent.
Shrill and one-note, the people Dezzy parties with are beyond the worst. Dezzy herself narrowly escapes by the will power alone of Madison. She propels her body and soul through one grisly scene after another between bouts of stalking around her apartment and flinging paint.
Begos decision to shoot on 16mm film is a brilliant one. The entire film has a gritty grindhouse vibe that serves it well especially in the beginning moments before all hell breaks loose. In later scenes jerky camera work, dizzying strobe lights, and too many cut scenes add to the experience of being impaired yourself. Bliss is one bad trip you can’t come down from. It is the kind of visceral experience that you feel rather than just watch, and you can’t watch Bliss without a strong reaction.
Does Dezzy become a vampire?
For better or for worse Bliss is indulgent and singularly focused. It is like Dezzy herself. She flings herself from one wild encounter after another and we go right along with her into the literal bowels of Hell. The question becomes is Dezzy a vampire, some other evil, or was she driven mad by the drugs and obsession?
Clues early seem to indicate she always had something dark in her. Her boyfriend hints at addiction issues in the past and her druggie friends all are major flags that she was already in very deep. More overt hints are upside-down crosses she lights up like a pop art Vegas sign over her bed. She doesn’t give two f*&ks and wants the world to know it.
An early view of the painting shows a vision of red and orange illuminating an oddly feminine looking shape. In later scenes, the vision becomes an outline of her with worshippers crawling up each other to touch her. With the initial painting reminiscent of a female sex organ, it could be argued Begos is comparing females to demons.
All-powerful with the propensity for evil. I’ve had some boyfriends who would agree. The source of all evil has been attributed to females for thousands of years. The Bible blames Eve for Adam’s fall and as recently as the 1930’s to much or to little feminine libido would point at mental illness. In certain countries, women still hide and men are cautioned to avoid the lust women induce.
By the final act, Dezzy has completely given in to her carnal urges. As she paints her now blackened piece de resistance the undead ghosts of what she has done claw at her bloodied, nude body. By this time she has taken out quite a few people and it is no surprise the ghosts she is pulling away from are all men. Dezzy is asserting herself over her oppressors and her own mind and body. It is a powerful and terrifying sequence, unlike anything you will ever see.
The finished painting reveals what Dezzy the human and Dezzy the monster has always wanted, to be worshipped. Her painting reveals a crimson God standing on a mountain of bodies. As the painting comes into focus Dezzy’s face with a highlighted halo is revealed. She views herself as a liberator, an angel, a God. It is female empowerment by way of debasement. Love her, hate her, or fear her it is irrelevant. All will bow to her work.
Whether you are sickened or titillated by this gritty shocker you won’t soon forget the punk rock music video turned bloody vampire film. For fans of Gaspar Noe and Panos Cosmatos, Begos is a new voice among the masters of depravity. The surreal and realistic combine with a bombastic soundtrack to create art formed by blood, sweat, and tears.
Bliss is a Shudder Exclusive right now so there is no better time to get a free trial of the horror streamer. Click here for an entire month free for all Signal Horizon readers. Every week we give you a new list of recommendations. We curate lists for every subgenre so there is something for every taste. Check out Joe Begos’ newest film VFW showing at Panic Fest right now. You can read all our Panic Fest coverage here.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.