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Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 33.33%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Thirst (2009)
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by Erik Childress

"So This Priest Becomes A Vampire...And..."
3 stars

How starved are we for a good vampire film? Stuck within the hype of what could go down as one of the lamest franchise series of any genre – if Twilight is any indication – horror geeks and casual, discerning fans usually can seek solace in the less-distributed side of horror. Near Dark over The Lost Boys forever. Guillermo Del Toro’s Cronos instead of 30 Days of Night. And, naturally, Let the Right One In’s 12 year-olds over those glittering teens from the overcast of Seattle mountains. Tomas Alfredson’s film set the bar so high that we could probably go another five years without revisiting the genre and true film lovers would be OK with that. Who is going to turn down a vampire effort from the likes of Chan-wook Park though, the man responsible for the Mr./Lady Vengeance trilogy kicked off to American audiences with Old Boy? Certainly not this film lover. At over two hours though, Park’s Thirst appears as a candidate to easily bite off more than it can chew given his occasional appetitle for excessive, bloody violence. Truth is though that it doesn’t sink its teeth in enough, leaving us with an overlong experience that while certainly a far step above the usual junk like this summer’s Blood: The Last Vampire, leaves us more drained than energized.

Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-Ho) is a priest who desperately wants to do some good for his community. A deadly, seemingly incurable virus has been taking up rooms at the hospital where he gives last rites. He volunteers for an experimental treatment which requires him to be infected with the virus. After coughing up enough blood to overflow a flute, Sang dies. But he’s brought back, feeling better than ever and seen as something of a miracle by some camping fanatics. Rebirth comes with a price though as Sang can only replenish his appetite with the taste of blood, which is in ample supply to the patients he counsels. Sunlight is also a problem and his new life also comes with ample strength and the ability to glide through the air. Has the man of God now become a lapdog of Satan?

Sang’s childhood friend, Kang-woo (Shin Ha-gyun) is also a sickly one. He’s married to Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin) who constantly is undermined by the doting nature of his mother, Mrs. Ra (Kim Hae-suk), and she looks to be at the end of her patience rope. After a kind act by the sprightly Sang, Tae-ju develops an attraction and they begin to have a ravenous affair. She discovers his secret soon enough and begins plotting to have Sang help rid herself of Kang’s annoying burden once and for all. How far will her own thirst for murder go though?

The plotting for Park’s film comes straight from Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin. Zola didn’t write of vampires, but certainly of forbidden passion mixed with a tad of bloodlust. It seems like an interesting mix to incorporate the undead into some bizarre cooragulation of necrophilia and hemophilia, but its more interesting just how uninteresting it all is. A large chunk of the second act is dedicated to Sang & Tae-ju’s lovemaking and the way she finagles him into assisting in her speedy divorce. What becomes of Mrs. Ra and the guilty psyches of the lovers comes straight from Zola right down to a kitchen gathering and the final scene. Only now with a touch of vampirism. Those familiar with the source material may wonder why Park didn’t just remake Therese Raquin entire since the otherworldly elements don’t compliment it, but stand out apart from it.

Vampire stories rarely get praised for their special effects since much of it consists of a little makeup, a lot of blood and the occasional morph. Park utilizes his effects here so seamlessly and unexpectedly into throwaway moments that we’re never ceased to be amazed at someone lifting something above their weight class or the way they fly like a wuxia warrior guarding the night. As horrifying as it can be to see the gorier side to Sang’s plight, there’s also something beautiful from a cinematic viewpoint in the manner to which Park heals his protagonist or quivers us through the same sound effects he uses for both the biting and the kissing.

So wrapped up in dazzling our eyes and being faithful to Zola though, Park ends up with a screenplay that never really thrusts into the full force of a priest now unwillingly serving a calling of evil. The idea of heavily spiritual fanatics worshipping another side of the resurrection is a transgressive one that could have fed into a fervent satire of religious hypocrisy. Except the tent keepers make no impression, used more as a bridge between a few scenes rather than any sort of lasting statement. It wasn’t a week later after seeing Thirst that HBO’s True Blood made the suggestion that Jesus Christ was the first vampire. Undead. This is my body. This is my blood. Drink it. And that was an exchange made for goofs. Thirst practically jettisons all the worthwhile opportunities to explore Sang’s true inner turmoil other than what to do with this out-of-control woman. In the last hour of the film, Song Kang-Ho plays it more like the guy who doesn’t know what to do with the dancing frog he’s found.

At 133 minutes, Thirst well overstays its welcome. When its not slowing itself to a crawl it’s basically repeating its more wondrous moments or bloodstained activity. Once it shifts into its murder plot, the life begins to drain out of our expectations. Sure Park puts a spin on the vampire genre but not much of one on Emile Zola since that aspect plays out to the verbatim of its Cliffs Notes and fails to utilize the twist of a priest or a vampire as its protagonist to accentuate its immoral faculties. Bloodsucker fans may overlook the cyclical filler on hand in Thirst and choose to focus on the elements that clearly outshine 90% of the standard horror fare each year. Overall its just not as focused and satisfying as the Vengeance trilogy. Park’s welcome streak for dark comedy does overcome the monotony here and there, but when the sun finally comes up we’re left with little but scattered particles of something that tried to do something good, but ultimately failed.

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originally posted: 08/14/09 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2009 Festival de Cannes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/19/11 moose rapper This why Wook-Park rocks 5 stars
10/02/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess This disturbing pitch-black comedy is everytihing the 'Twilight' series should have been 5 stars
3/18/10 mr.mike With a heavy heart , I say it is only for Park completists. 3 stars
1/16/10 Sevarian Not as great as the vengeance trilogy but damned good! 5 stars
8/11/09 menten exciting, thrilling and thought-provoking.. 5 stars
8/02/09 Ming A wacky type of horror film...The plot is a little hard to understand in the beginning. 3 stars
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  31-Jul-2009 (R)
  DVD: 17-Nov-2009


  DVD: 17-Nov-2009

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