Weekend Watch: Joe Begos double bill

Over the last two weekends I’ve entered a new and intriguing land of horror and beauty in the form of two movies by director Joe Begos.

He has a very distinct visual style which leans on the supernatural and I for one am here for it. I thought I’d share my findings for any horror fans reading because I enjoyed both films and think they’re both worth a look. Probably not if you’re averse to violence and gore though because these are positively SATURATED.

*Minor spoilers*

Bliss (2019)

A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.

Painter Dezzy (Dora Madison) has an upcoming gallery show which is a bit shit considering she’s struggling to create anything worth exhibiting. Seriously behind on rent, rowing with her boyfriend Clive (Jeremy Gardner) and being a flake all over town, she’s dropped by her agent one fateful afternoon. In a rage she goes to visit a pal who sells her a new super-hallucinogen called Bliss.

That night she gets off her tits and enjoys a ménage a trois with her friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and her boyfriend. On returning to her apartment (which is one of those annoyingly attractive loft spaces), she finds herself starting a new piece which has huge potential.

Bliss proves to be rather seductive and she enjoys it again, though in the morning she has little recollection of what she’s been up to. The painting is coming along nicely but not everything is peachy as she recalls a disturbing incident with Courtney in the bathroom of a club.

And now she’s craving… something. Something like blood. What did Courtney and her man do to Dezzy and why is she suddenly insatiable for claret? Well you can imagine that this won’t end well but it might just climax in pure raw art and sometimes that’s all that really matters, right?

Dezzy is not a character you warm to and honestly almost everyone is The Worst – except *maybe* Clive, who at least seems to care about her. The neon aesthetic of this baby is really appealing and the twist which might not really be a twist wasn’t what I was expecting at all – but I dug it.

In some respects this reminds me of another spooky painting horror, The Devil’s Candy (2015) which looks and feels very different but channels the same sort of dark energy.

3.5/5

VFW (2019)

A group of war veterans must defend their local VFW post and an innocent teen against a deranged drug dealer and his relentless army of punk mutants.

An Old Boys’ Club find themselves dragged into a post-apocalyptic turf war when a vengeful teenager called Lizard (Sierra McCormick) steals a load of drugs from the local gang. Who may or may not be mutants.

These men are the Veterans of Foreign War and they don’t mess around. Formed of Fred, Walter, Abe and Lou (Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson and Martin Kove, respectively) – these pensioners are still NAILS which will bode well when they’re forced to fight to the death.

When Lizard rocks up to their post it quickly kicks off and the waters are muddied (and bloodied) further when one of them kills the mutant leader Boz’s (Travis Hammer) little brother. The mutant gang have already murdered Lizard’s sister (in a realllllly disturbing opening scene), hence her stealing the drugs – which I believe is called Hype.

The VFW aren’t 100% on the same page about their loyalties to Lizard, a couple of whom suggest throwing her out in the street and calling it a night – but Fred isn’t going to allow it to go down like that.

This film is so gloriously gory, there are heads and faces exploding left and right. It might leave a nasty taste in your mouth if you aren’t a fan of the Grindhouse flavouring or hyper violence but luckily I am very much here for it.

VFW has shades of John Carpenter woven through it – and the plot isn’t completely unlike his masterpiece Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – set in one location, a group under attack from outside forces. The synthy score doesn’t hurt to uphold that comparison either. Meanwhile, I was reminded a few times of Carpenter-esque The Warriors (1979) which I also love. And, that neon dreamscape is all at once super retro and modern AF.

I’m also a sucker for the group who are portrayed by actors from a bunch of movies than mean a lot to Glynn and I, including Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey‘s Death (Sadler) and The Karate Kid‘s Sensai (Kove).

Bloody good fun.

3.5/5

What are you watching?