North Bend FF Review: A Coke-Fueled Vampire Frenzy Powers ‘Bliss’
“It’s gonna be my masterpiece…”
Victorian vampires begone. We have a new contender: heavy metal vampires. The goriest and most stylish film of the North Bend Film Festival was hands down Joe Begos’ coke-fueled nightmare Bliss, a film about the ever timeless struggle of an artist trying to make it, but with a couple key distinctions: heavy metal, vampires, and cocaine. It’s a bizarre combination, but let me explain.
Dezzy (Dora Madison) is an LA artist trying to make ends meet. After being dropped by her agent and with rent overdue, she has one last chance to create something remarkable. The problem is she doesn’t have any inspiration. Her gallery piece is due in 10 days and with little on the canvas, the pressure is on. One night she goes on a drug fueled blur and wakes up different. Suddenly she can go on rabid painting binges in the middle of the night and make remarkable progress over the course of a couple hours. But this success comes with blood thirsty impulses that grow stronger and stronger with each passing day.
A pitch like this is a perfect set up for something strange. Though its core is familiar and the premise is reminiscent of 2017’s The Devil’s Candy, there is enough sex, drugs, and metal coursing through the film’s veins to make it stand on its own.
Bliss is a hyperkinetic genre film that moves at a break neck pace— literally and figuratively. As Dezzy’s painting begins to take form, the insanity ratchets up, the dosage gets jacked up, and the blood starts flowing. The film is tied to Dezzy’s descent —or ascent depending on how you look at it— into vampirism and as each night passes, the film gets increasingly more dependent on its own excess. A heavy metal soundtrack sets the sonic stage as cocaine powers hallucinogenic orgies, all-night paint sessions, and blood-lust murders. It’s akin to last year’s Mandy in that the trip, the chaotic experience that comes from its visuals, takes precedent over anything else.
Yes the story is there, but it’s not the main coarse, at least in my experience. To really draw from this film, you have to buy into its style. Its heavy metal grunge. Its supernatural demonic aura. Beneath all the white powder and blood there is the message about what it means to be a struggling artist, but it’s in the backseat, and a coked-out vampire painter is in the driver seat, taking us to hell and back. So come for the pitch, not the story, and get ready to watch a vampire who looks like she just raided Scareface’s drug den.