The Bliss of Evil journey began when I met my co-producer and long-time friend Corrie Hinschen for lunch at our favorite Korean restaurant. Corrie and I became friends through our love of film, so naturally, the conversation veered toward movies. Corrie is also a musician and somehow over that lunch, we started talking about his time playing in local bands when he said, “Did I ever tell you about the time one of my bandmates tried to kill us all at rehearsal?”. What he told me sounded like something out of a movie and, with that, Bliss of Evil was born.
In Bliss of Evil,
A sound engineer struggling in the aftermath of trauma is forced to face her fears when she’s locked in a music studio with her girlfriend’s grunge band. Mistrust and mayhem erupt as they search for answers and a way out.
Once conceived, the vision for Bliss of Evil became clear very quickly – we wanted to make a film that could be enjoyed as a slasher but tackle deeper, darker issues. Bliss of Evil is a story about trauma and personal demons – it examines how the way we handle tragedy (either consciously or unconsciously) can have a ripple effect on all parts of it. We sought to tell a story where the audience would feel the trauma of not only the protagonist but also the antagonist - all while making a villain so disturbing and evil that the audience would be rooting for their death, not for deaths that the villain inflicts.
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We also look at themes of women fighting back against entitlement and toxic masculinity. These themes, and our way of presenting them, drew inspiration from Bob Clarke’s Black Christmas - a film ahead of its time that appears to be about a deranged psychopath killing off sorority girls, but seamlessly Trojan horses in social themes relating to women’s rights.
Our themes around trauma also influenced our decision about the film’s structure. Trauma disrupts a person’s life, so rather than follow the rigid structure and series of events many slasher films follow; we tried something different by drawing on the structure of a Giallo film. We thought that by setting up a murder mystery in the style of an Italian Giallo film to start, pivoting at the halfway point and revealing the killer, then going all out with a slasher film, we would keep the audience guessing while mirroring how life often feels to someone experiencing trauma. During the writing and filming stages, we would watch works like Dario Argento’s Deep Red, Lucio Fulci’s The Psychic, or Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? for how to unfold our own mystery, as well as artistic flourishes on how to present red herrings, move the camera, or how the killer should be approached.
While each character and performance had its own sources of inspiration, there are three that really stand out to me. First, our villain, ‘Bloodface’, played by Corrie. This character and performance was based on Christopher Lee’s Hammer horror films, particularly Horror of Dracula where the performance centered around the physicality and use of eyes. Corrie also paid close attention to Meiko Kaji’s performances in the Female Prisoner Scorpion, Stray Cat Rock, and Lady Snowblood film series’, with Meiko Kaji’s uncanny ability to emote so much just by a look in her eye.
For Chenaya Aston, who portrays Courtney “the groupie”, I showed her a scene of Al Pacino in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather where Michael lays out his plan to his family about killing Sollozzo. In that scene, Michael was so calm, calculating, and methodical, but is completely dismissed by the people around him. This is exactly where Courtney was in our story – an even-tempered, logical, person, in an extreme situation, being disregarded because of their standing in the group dynamic.
A direct, almost word-for-word inspiration was that of John McTiernan’s Predator when Isla begs our villain to come for her. While Sharnee Tones who portrayed Isla, drew from multiple other great “final girls,” notably Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Halloween H20 that Predator reference in the film always makes us smile - to take from such an inherently masculine movie and flip it on its head and have it be thrown toward a character who epitomizes toxic masculinity was gratifying to portray.
Because Bliss of Evil was set primarily in one location, we tried to show off as much of the space as we could, giving each space a different feel. Looking at how films such as John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room handled this, we tried to ensure each room had a different color or filming style. Green Room’s music element too was an obvious parallel, including a direct homage with the use of a couch.
Stylistically, there are direct moments, dialogue, or shots inspired by such films as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Eugenio Martin’s Horror Express, Richard Franklin’s Roadgames, Gasper Noe’s Enter the Void, Wes Craven’s Scream, Paul Lynch’s Prom Night, Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2, George Romero’s Dead Trilogy… just to name a few! However, perhaps the biggest inspiration when it came to the feel and tone of Bliss of Evil came from Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A film not heavy on blood and gore, but heavy on dread and making the audience fill in the gaps in their own minds - which is far worse than anything we could show on the screen. Hooper’s film is virtually unmatched in this respect. Finally, we drew inspiration from the Coen Brothers’ Fargo – a film nominated for 7 Oscars in 1997, the year our film is set. If you’re a fan of Fargo, you will know why when you watch our film.
Most obviously, though, a major inspiration is John Carpenter’s Halloween. Not only in terms of our killer, the tone, and the use of synthesizer in our score, but also in approach. Our team very much used Carpenter/Hill/Castle/Cundy as a blueprint for our own project – we were ultimately a group of friends who love film, coming together to make something because we all believed in it.
Bliss of Evil may have begun with two friends catching up over Korean food, and it was certainly a labor of love. However, it is ultimately a homage to the films that made us love movies and made us want to make movies ourselves. They built the roads we are currently walking down and for that, we are eternally grateful.
Joshua Morris makes his feature film directorial debut with Bliss of Evil. Born and raised on the Gold Coast, Australia, Joshua is a lifelong lover and student of film. Following in the footsteps of many of his film making idols, Joshua decided to self-fund several small film projects to learn on the job and hone his craft. Having made a handful of shorts, a tv pilot and penning an adaptation of an autobiography, Joshua decided to make the leap and write, direct and produce his first feature film alongside the team of Pieces of Work Productions. You can follow him on Instagram.