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RNRF X Salem Horror Fest: “Official Selection”, Bliss Of Evil

Hmmm… let us think on this one a minute, shall we? We’ve already committed to reviewing what we can from the incredible lineup presented by Salem Horror Fest this year when we see that the synopsis for Bliss Of Evil entails the trials of a sound engineer, a Rawk band, and it all happens within a recording studio. If that’s not kismet for this deal then we don’t know what is.

It also helps that the film in question, written and directed by Joshua Morris, is easily one of the best we’ve seen so far from the Fest this year (And that’s saying a lot considering the films that SHF has selected for 2023).

But. I. Digress.

It’s another that’s “Based on true events” so “Uh oh” but also it supposedly happened in 1997 and takes place in Brisbane so out of sight, out of mind? Regardless of the locale and time period, “Inspired by…” always gives us the willies and here, with the way that director Morris and Director of Photography Damian Hussey capture the kind of downright evil things that go down, we feel pretty justified by that feeling.

From a story by Morris, Nate Collins, and Corrie Hinschen, Bliss Of Evil follows Sharnee Tones as “Isla” who’s recovering from some unspoken bad shit that recently went down and having a “A Mexican Stand off with the Sandman” from lack of sleep (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that eventually). She’s a sound engineer working at her family’s studio and about to help her girlfriend Nic (Shanay De Marco), who’s the lead singer of Prom Night, record some tracks with their new guitarist. We meet Isla’s best friend Jamie (Michaela Da Costa) who’s tagging along for the evening at the studio with Nic’s bandmates Roy (Brendan R Burman-Bellenger), Rhea (Emily Rowbottom), resident groupie Courtney (Chenaya Aston), and eventually the new guitarist Lee (Jordan Schulte) who are all concerned about a recent local music figurehead who seemingly committed suicide (Roy thinks it was foul play, though!)

The studio itself is itself isolated but in a “dangerous neighborhood” which is the reason for the bars on the windows and generally an over fortified studio complete with many a soundproof room for recording purposes. Smelling a recipe for disaster? You betcha! On his way out for the night, we also get to meet Isla’s Uncle Michael (Wayne Bassett) as he’s hurling insults at an artist trying to share their “The Beatles meets Kriss Kross” demo and score some studio time before brandishing a shotgun to vehemently ask that they leave the premises. But don’t worry! “It’s not even loaded” he confides in his niece before she walks him out for the night.

While Lee is kind of a pretentious dick, Prom Night is still gelling and recording some kick ass Rawk until, going off an old set list, they launch into a track called “Bliss Of Evil” which ultimately triggers whatever past trauma Isla has been dealing with. While the opening title sequence and especially the score by Nate Collins is pure art, the way that sound designer/editor Shaun O’Brien helps to structure the scene where the audience witnesses Isla’s reaction to the song but doesn’t hear the song itself is sheer brilliance. Soon after that the first body drops and everything you thought you knew goes out the window. First off, this is not your typical slasher. Sure, there’s a certain Agatha Christie/10 Little Indians whodunnit element and the typical paranoia that surrounds those kinds of themes but once we meet “Bloodface” (Played by Hinschen) it’s a game changer. Secondly, the way Collins’ score is utilized from this moment on is exquisite. Almost immediately following the discovery of the first body the music is ever present, ominous, and increasingly unnerving as the film takes many a twist and turn (And there are hella old school Horror references throughout, too), giving more insight into Isla’s plight and when we finally do hear “Bliss Of Evil” it’s haunting and sets up a final act that is intense, unsettling, and relentless showcasing that sometimes it’s the things you don’t see which are the most terrifying.

From Pieces Of Work Productions, Bliss Of Evil makes its’ Northeast Premiere at Cinema Salem on April 29th at 8 PM EST as part of the 2023 Salem Horror Fest. For tickets and info head here and for the rest of the stellar SHF lineup head here.

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