Tribeca Film Festival Review – ‘Bliss’ (2019)

Giving it a distinct retro look by being shot on hearty 16mm, director Joe Begos’ newest filmmaking endeavor Bliss unveils the definition of addiction, with a vampiric facade. Showing addiction in the form of substances, to an artist’s work, and even through violent death and carnage, this film brings you down a dark tunnel of insanity that spirals in and out of itself through flashing lights, neon hues, and blood-soaked special effects. It doesn’t slow down for anyone, and will permeate under your skin with an infectious captivation.

Stuck in what feels like a never ending rut, popular dark artist Dezzy (Dora Madison) finds inspiration to finish her latest piece through the over indulgence of hard drugs. Only this drug in particular hits really hard, sending her spinning into a blackout rage, allowing her motivation to work while simultaneously craving human blood. She begins to fall deeper into the darkness, leaving no one in Los Angeles safe in the wake of her rampage.


Within Bliss, the concept is great, with certain aspects being relatable (to a degree). The path of an artist is not an easy one, and every single person following this path has indulged in a bad habit at least once or twice to fuel the inspirational flames. But taking it to this fictitious extreme allows for endless creative explorations for director Begos, offering a strong storyline while holding hints of real experiences. A story such as this should be nothing short of electrifying, and Begos proves that to be the case through tenacious camera work along with bold and bloody piles of gore. The heart and flow of this film relies heavily on many moving pieces to produce the frantic energy needed for its success, and every element here shows strong and effective; with Mike Testin’s brilliant cinematography, to Josh Ethier’s Sharp editing, right down to Steve Moore’s intense and recognizable score.   

The decision for Dora Madison as Dezzy could not have been a better fit, and charges head-first into the madness of her character. She is absolutely powerful on screen and shows little to no mercy towards anyone in her path. The amount of energy and genuine talent she produces lights up the screen and gives her character real meaning. The cast in its entirety shows real gusto, with each character giving us a true sense of anguish. Each performance feels authentic and well worked for, with Jeremy Gardner playing Dezzy’s reluctant, yet caring boyfriend Clive, to the familiar face of Graham Skipper as the laid back drug peddler Hadrian, fully equipped with massive mutton chops- no role felt lacking in any regard.


The vampiric element felt subtle, as this notion was not brought to my attention until the Q&A following the end of the film. The murderous thirst for blood that consumes Dezzy by way of drug felt more hallucinatory, as if it were either not actually happening or induced by the drug directly. Even a demonic element crossed my mind once or twice, due to the subject matter she paints and the name of the drug variant she takes being called ‘Diablo’. Regardless, it’s a neat element that definitely breathed a unique force into the film, and set it apart from others of its kind.

Aside from a sex scene that deemed a little gratuitous and hyper fantasized (though the hardcore lifestyle they want to depict is understandable), Bliss packs a bloody punch and proceeds to be a gory good time. It’s full of intense thrills that grind against your brain, all while depicting the seedy side to Los Angeles with parts that felt slightly reminiscent to more modern film’s like The Devil’s Candy. Being shot on 16mm was a perfect choice and provided a different level of retro depth that digital just does not possess. Catching this film is a must, and one that should be experienced on the big screen, surrounded by genre fans.

Bliss had its world premiere at Tribeca on Saturday, April 27th and played there throughout the week. Keep this gem high on your viewing radar. You can see the teaser trailer by clicking – here!

About Abigail Braman

Abigail loves all-things horror, writing, art, and art history. She is also an oil painter, primarily focusing on macabre subject matters, and writes reviews and does interviews for Nightmarish Conjurings, along with directing a new stop-motion animated horror short film titled, Cadillac Dust. In her spare time, Abigail enjoys spending time with her cat Claude, and playing the banjo.

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