The EVILs of Drugs, Addiction, and Art in “Bliss” reviewed!


Dezzy Donahue, a struggling Los Angeles artist, lives life ferociously with hard drugs and heavy drinking despite the cautionary advice of her quasi-boyfriend, Clive. Her current masterpiece falls behind on schedule and she hits a formidable creative block that results in being fired by her managing agent and with cash quickly dwindling, Dezzy’s losing the battle for inspiration that turns to an increasing narcotic intake surging through her system where any and all substances are fair game to explore. When she snorts a line of Diablo, a blissful, out of body experience drug, she finds herself in a rapturous three way with friend Courtney and her on-off side piece Ronnie that leave her with a post-high, post-sex altering inner body inexperience of opening the flood gates on her creativity to draw again as well as pang her with an insatiable need for a fix when no longer riding the high. Soon, Dezzy discovers the Diablo might not have been the drug that lit the fire inside her when a strong craving for blood becomes an inescapable addiction and a means to finally finish her greatest triumph work of art.

An audio/visual besieging rabbit hole shiplapped with braided beleaguering addiction and vampiric pathology in the stimulating aggressive, Joe Begos written and directed visceral horror, “Bliss,” set in the sordid Los Angeles metal scene. The “Almost Human” and “The Mind’s Eye” filmmaker hypnotizes on a stroboscope wave with his latest take on the vampire mythos with a drug-fueled, warmongering hell on a canvas tale of sex, drugs, and diabolical fiend cravings. Produced by Channel 83 Film, as are all of Bego’s works, “Bliss” is the director’s next notch up on the crazy, unrestrained belt that’s already garnished and weaponized with razor wire and three-inch cone spikes and while the story itself isn’t fashioned for originality, the way Joe Bego’s exfoliates the overripe garbage of rehashed formulaic filmmaking from the excessively strained eyeballs, sheepish with mawkish and dull stories, will be a new design to treasure as cult status.

Where’s “Bliss’s” 2019 nomination for best actress in a lead role!? Dora Madison seizes the performance of Dezzy Donahue by storm inside a role of careless abandonment that coils into viperous mode and lashes out with a deadly strike of unconventional fangs. Madison embraces the exotic Joe Begos route covered in blood, paranoia, and a sleazy shade of florescent neon and runs a willingness to express his mesmerizing vision with body cam harnesses. “Bliss” quickly establishes a hard-hitting tenor and Madison, whose credits include “The Loft,” “Night of the Babysitter,” and in the next upcoming Begos release, “VFW,” exacts a fortified layer of extreme sovereign, a do-what-I-want policy with a zero complaint department attitude, while stowing away what little hope and compassion Dezzy has in the forgotten corners of her plainspoken mind until the moment is too late to turn back. The story solely follows Dezzy’s perception of events as she encounters and reencounters characters before and after needing a junkie’s fix, an exaggerated play on an abusers volatile relationships. The cast affixed to roles of Dezzy’s vexing fix are Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield (“The Purge”), Jeremy Gardner (“The Mind’s Eye”), Graham Skipper (“Carnage Park”), Chris McKenna (“King of the Ants”), Rachel Avery, Abraham Benrubi (“Wristcutters: A Love Story”), and that lovable “Cheers” regular, George Wendt.

At this point in the review, an overabundance of praise for Joe Begos’ “Bliss” has been logged by this reviewer, who is obviously a fan of the film, but more can be unquestionably explored. From previous reviews and comments I’ve come across regarding “Bliss,” a minority have displayed a disdain for the indistinct theme of drug withdraws and vampirism that resembles Abel Ferrera’s 1995 film “The Addiction,” but instead of being set in shadowy alleys of New York’s urban jungle, Bego’s relocates to the wayward esse of L.A. life. Perhaps Begos was inspired by Ferrera’s undiluted struggle and violence that makes “Bliss” a clone to “The Addiction’s” chief thread, but the film’s are artistically polar opposites. “The Addiction’s” black and white photography and slow-burn air tunes more into the story of the Shakespearian tragedy variety, especially when Christopher Walken provides lengthy life stance and coping monologues to establish his eternal dominance over Lili Taylor. “Bliss” proclaims a stimulus trip from the very beginning with a favorable thrashing metal soundtrack and an psychedelic filmic presence that comes with an opening epileptic warning. Both films compliment the figurative comparison for a fix in their own poetic ways and would make a fantastic double feature release or double bill midnight movie.

If this writeup has a jonesing affect, “Bliss” is cut and lined ready for blipping on an Umbrella Entertainment DVD home video presented by Dark Sky Films. The Channel 83 Films production is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, being shot with a ARRI/ZEISS Super Speed Lenses, as credited on IMDB, that would explain the sharp image and stark contrasts on the colors. The visual perception of the seemingly humming-on-your-eyeballs neon lighting barely lets you experience the film in natural lightening during night scenes and only in the daytime that resembles the little normalcy left of Dezzy’s life, fade away with natural light the more she succumbs to blood cravings. “Bliss” feels and acts out like a 90’s film, slightly grainy for grindhouse seduction by way of shooting of actual film stock (35mm!), and forgoes the bubbly shine of perfection, coinciding damningly with Dezzy’s inner circle of sleaze, grime, and gore. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has a lot of kick and energy with a prevailing metal and punk/post-punk soundtrack feature Doomriders, Deth Crux, and Electric Wizard just to name drop a few. Dialogue is clean with an appropriate depth in the midsts of hard partying and live bands. Range is a little harder to discern since the soundtrack really is overpowering and dialogue sops up the remaining amount of audio track space, but when opted, the ripping of flesh and breaking of bones doesn’t disappoint. No subtitles are offered. Like many of Umbrella Entertainment’s standard releases, the single sided, singer layer DVD has no static menu or special features to offer other than the 80 minute runtime feature. “Bliss” is one coked-out, blood hungry hell of a vampire tangent from the norm that rectifies the optic and audible sanctuary for shock brilliancy to flesh out the Machiavellian in all of us.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KdXU-n7qSg]

You want it, You need it, You desire it! Own “Bliss” today!

Tell, Don’t Ask, Evil to Go Away! “The Addiction” review!


NYU Philosophy doctoral hopeful, Kathleen Conklin, has a run-in with a woman on the night streets of New York City, attacking her into a secluded dark enclave, and biting her on the neck after Kathleen is unable to comply with the woman’s bizarre instructions of ordering her to go away. The incident instills fear into Kathleen that quickly turns to a painful vampirism transformation that involves aversion to sunlight, self-antipathy, and a craving for blood. She continues to her studies that evolve into a deeper analytical parallelism of her newly acquired immortality, the results of it, and the human aspect that’s affected by it while along the way, feeding and turning friends, colleagues, and strangers into her brood of own image. Kathleen happens upon Peina, a vampire like herself, that has claimed to conquer his own addiction to blood and can even mirror himself as human, such as eating normal food and jogging. The agonizing withdrawal with Peina drops a slither of a notion into Kathleen that her gargantuan thirst for blood will overdose her soul to pure evil and she has to come to terms with her immortal being on the life she wants to live.

Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction” has such anti-Hollywood tenacity that the black and white aurora of the 1995 noir vampire film goes against the more conventional grain that is Ferrara’s body of work, but still maintains a healthy amount of the director’s trademarks and his dispositional motifs to give the feature enough claim to clearly become his imprint of a screw you onto the big money motion pictures. The “Driller Killer” and “Bad Lieutenant” director orchestrates a film from without the complications of a union, with producers breathing down his neck to do this or that, and on such a minuscule budget; the vampires here are not transforming in bats, their eyes do not glow in the dark, and they even don’t have jugular piercing canines. Nicholas St. John’s script was written to portray monsters as just people with a severe addiction this particular drug of choice – the blood. The symbolism is so potent that’s hardly symbolism as the main character literally injects a syringe full of blood into the crook of her arm to get a fix.

Ravished without hesitation, Lili Taylor seizes Kathleen Conklin as if Taylor herself was addicted to the character, overtaking the character to an enlightened savagery of an academic disciple on the cusp of achieving stress-inducing doctoral status. Through the studious muck and death of mankind’s prior carnage, the “The Haunting” star goes for the full throttle transformation in the blink of a bite and never blatantly displays the hesitation of her former mortal self until the tide turns to whether stay blood thirsty or to live with the embattlement of struggling addiction. Kathleen crosses paths with Peina whose been undertaken by a classic Walken, Christopher Walken that is, and the New York City born “Communion” star had a big year in horror as “The Prophecy” was released the same year – 1995. Though Peina is crucial to Kathleen’s ultimate survival, the character has little screen time and Walken nails the performance with credence and gusto as some sort of subversive mentor to the young vampire protégé. The cast rounds out with Edie Falco, Paul Calderon (“Fear the Walking Dead”), Fredro Starr, and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’s” Annabella Sciorra as Casanova, the female nightstalker who takes a bite out of Kathleen and initiates the carnage.

Ferrara’s choice for black and white isn’t all surprising. At the time, numerous notable directors were doing the very exact concept in the 1990s, examples being Steven Speilberg’s award winning “Schindler’s List” in 1993 and Tim Burton’s dark comedy biopic “Ed Wood” with Johnny Depp in 1994, but Ferrara had a conceptually aesthetic noir appearance that created distance between the rest and established a solid black and white film that renders being akin to, perhaps, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Not only did Ferrara’s film fit in the scheme of the 90’s fad, but extended “The Addiction’s” disturbing dramatic value and horror sensationalism in which color would have for sure diluted the story due in part to the pocket change budget. Taylor, Walken, and Sciorra very much believed in the project and that belief brought their characters to the formidable forefront to where a color picture didn’t really matter in the end.

Arrow Films presents “The Addiction” onto Blu-ray home video and is distributed by MVD Visual. The Blu-ray has been newly restored 4K scan of the original camera negative and approved by director Abel Ferrara and director of photography Ken Kelsch. The high definition 1080p widescreen, 1.85:1, picture has a clean palate and despite the lack of the color palette, the black and white has virtually little-to-no blotching or DNR, leaving a flawless image. The English 5.1 DTE-HD MA and 2.0 LPCM soundtracks, with optional English subtitles, is well-balanced, at least in the 5.1 DTE-HD Master Audio. Dialogue in the forefront with a brooding and jarring score by composer Joe Delia has great distinction and range, but there’s a curious lack of ambiance that focuses more on direct action of characters. NYC should be booming with surrounding noise; yet the direction Ferrara takes with reduced ambiance is risky, but exquisitely done to add a more personal touch to Kathleen Conklin’s struggle. Bonus material includes an audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by critic and biographer Brad Stevens. There also includes a new documentary, entitled Talking with the Vampires, directed by Abel Ferrara that features new interviews with composer Joe Delia, Ken Kelsch, Christopher Walken, Lili Taylor, and Ferrara himself. A new interview with Abel Ferrera going into the background of the film’s construction and the era of filmmaking, a new appreciation by Brad Stevens, an achival piece from the time of production, original trailer, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain. A supremely inclusive Blu-ray release by Arrow Films and MVD Visual of Abel Ferrara’s grittiest work of his gritty catalogue and the very spartan vampire film has an outlook of what future vampire films should aspire to with great beneficial expectations.

Buy “The Addiction” today!