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Panic Fest ‘23 Movie Review: Sadistic Aussie Slasher “BLISS OF EVIL” Capitalizes On Trauma

Thursday, April 27, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Sharnee Tones, Shanay De Marco, Corrie Hinschen
Written and Directed by Josh Morris
BayView Entertainment

As the debate as to what constitutes “good” queer representation rages on, many filmmakers run the risk of being berated for either not including queer characters in their work, or for not representing those characters in the “correct” way. While there is no right way to tell a queer story, there are choices one can make that will result in queer viewers feeling empowered by a film, rather than alienated by it. Inevitably, though, any two queer horror fans may feel extremely differently about how their identities are represented on screen. BLISS OF EVIL, from Pieces of Work Productions, is likely to be one of the more divisive queer horror films on the festival circuit this year, for reasons that may or may not have been the filmmakers’ intent. 

In BLISS OF EVIL, after being sexually assaulted by a member of her girlfriend’s band, sound engineer Isla (Sharnee Tones) struggles to reconcile her experience with her involvement with the band. The events of the film take place over only a few hours, as the band – Prom Night – rehearses for an upcoming gig in a recording studio belonging to Isla’s uncle. Prom Night has replaced Isla’s attacker with another male guitarist named Lee (Jordan Schulte), yet Lee’s conduct towards the women in the band has begun to raise a few eyebrows.

BLISS OF EVIL’s cast of characters includes also Isla’s girlfriend Nic (Shanay De Marco), her friend Jamie (Michaela Shuttleworth), bandmembers Roy (Brendan R Burman-Bellenger) and Rhea (Emily Rowbottom), and Courtney the “groupie” (Chenaya Aston). After one among them is mysteriously murdered, the group blames newcomer Lee until they realize they have been locked inside the recording studio by a mysterious and murderous stranger. Credited as ‘Bloodface’ (Corrie Hinschen), the killer appears hell-bent on exacting revenge on the group, for reasons unknown to them until his identity is revealed. 

Despite the progressive trappings of BLISS OF EVIL’s premise, the actual politics of the film are a bit less straightforward. The rape of gay and lesbian individuals by members of the opposite sex – often referred to as ‘corrective rape’ – has a long and sordid history that cannot be cast out of mind while watching BLISS OF EVIL. While many films with the ethos ‘men are pigs’ are successful feminist texts, BLISS OF EVIL even paints bandmember Roy as intolerant of the queer people around him. 

BLISS OF EVIL’s successes come in the form of the performances of its cast members and the filmmaking itself. Lead actor Sharnee Tones, in particular, delivers a nuanced and effective performance that keeps a beating heart at the center of BLISS OF EVIL, despite the moments where the film exploits her character’s sexual trauma. Kudos are also due to Josh Morris’ directing, which maintains a tense and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the entire runtime. The film also takes advantage of its musical context; “Bliss of Evil” refers to the title of a song written by Isla’s attacker, one that triggers an intense panic attack when the band attempts to rehearse it. At one particularly unnerving moment, Bloodface uses the song to taunt Isla and her friends, prompting viewers to cheer just a bit louder when he finally meets his end.

BLISS OF EVIL screened at Panic Fest ‘23 and Salem Horror Fest ‘23. Distribution is upcoming from BayView Entertainment (Skinamarink).

Grace Detwiler
Grace Detwiler (@finalgirlgrace) is a freelance film journalist and law student. Her original work can be found on her blog, FinalGirlGrace, as well as in Rue Morgue's print and online publications.