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Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The Bloody Maelstrom of Bliss

This month's hidden horrors of Peacock takes a look at a blood-soaked canvas of art-based horror.

By Matthew Jackson
Dezzy (Dora Madison Burge) is covered in blood in Bliss (2019).

Welcome to Hidden Horrors of Peacock, a monthly column spotlighting off-the-beaten-path scary movies available to watch right now on NBCUniversal's streaming service. From cult classics to forgotten sequels to indie gems you've maybe never heard of, we've got you covered.  

Every horror film is, in some way or another, about the controlled build and release of tension. You let the audience linger in silence for a few seconds, then you let out a jump scare. You keep the monster in the shadows for half the movie, then you launch the attack. Every film sets its own rhythm for this kind of thing, but they're all playing with the same primal elements of our evolutionary responses to stimuli, and when you find a story that does it well, you feel it in your blood in an almost literal way. 

Bliss, the 2019 indie horror film from writer/director Joe Begos, is one of those films that takes the visceral feeling of tension and release to truly primal levels, and does it with its own particular rhythm. Steeped in the punk rock vibes of a starving artist searching for transcendence at all costs, and packing one of the most blood-drenched third acts in recent memory, it's one of the best indie horror releases of the last five years, and it's streaming right now on Peacock.

More Hidden Horrors of Peacock:
Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The High-Concept Slasher Brilliance of Freaky
Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The Holiday Horror Delights of Krampus
Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The Psychological Delights of Mother, May I?

Why You Should Be Watching Bliss

The film follows Dezzy (Dora Madison), a painter who's in an artistic rut. Her latest piece, which she's already well past deadline on, is little more than a pretty backdrop in search of a real subject, and she spends her days staring at the canvas looking for something powerful to translate from her mind to her palette. When the staring doesn't work, she fills her time partying, heading out for nights of drugs, booze, and sex with her friend Courtney (Tru Collins) in the hope that something, anything, will jumpstart her imagination. 

Horror fans will know that we're quickly heading for something in the "Be Careful What You Wish For" category here, and Begos knows it too. Bliss plunges into the depths of Dezzy's hedonistic searching with a clear contrast between the tension of her waking life –– Will she finish her paintings? Is her career in jeopardy? Will she have to compromise her values to earn a buck? –– and the abandon of her partying nights, helped along by a new drug offered by a local dealer that promises to take her places nothing else ever has. That drug, and the desperate way in which Dezzy seeks some kind of artistic jumpstart, adds an extra layer of tension to these early scenes. We feel the release of the parties, but we also know that lurking beneath the surface is another kind of tension, one that promises to unspool more slowly over the course of the film.

Dezzy (Dora Madison Burge) claws at her bloodied head in Bliss (2019).

At least, that's the way it is at first. The front half of the movie, helped along by gorgeous neon-soaked visuals, presents a kind of twisted blend of supernatural mystery and body horror, as Dezzy blacks out, then wakes up to find new pieces of her painting in place, then goes back out for more drugs. By the time the film reveals what it's really after, all the tension of that mystery, and what it means for Dezzy's life, has built up to such a high degree that the release is almost ecstatic for both the characters and the audience. From there, the film pushes ahead into a white-hot, splatterpunk final act that's as weird as it is bloody. 

It's a ferocious piece of work, and it's heightened by both Madison's performance as a woman who's in over her head and by Begos' ability to somehow be simultaneously patient and relentless with the pacing of the piece. Bliss is not a long movie, but it's also the kind of movie that's willing to slow down and luxuriate in many of its most effective sequences. Like an expressionist painting, the very act of its creation is part of the point, and we get to watch as Begos, Madison, and the rest of the Bliss team relish every moment, coiling up like a spring in preparation for the finale. 

If you love indie horror, weird horror, vampire horror, or all of the blood, you need to see Bliss. It's one of those films that'll pull you in with its sensuous patience, then unleash absolute mayhem in the best way.

Bliss is now streaming on Peacock.

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