Directed by Chan-wook Park
Where do I start? When a movie plays out so magnificently as Chan-Wook Park's Thirst, you applaud and you feel like a million bucks afterwards. It's simply genius that Park can take the vampire and create a story interwoven with identity, betrayal, moralilty and love.
I absolutely loved the film in all its awesomness even with a disjointed 3 part act. The critics will squeal it goes from a priest inflicted with vampirism and the conflict of his morals being compromised to a Buffy-Angel like forbidden love story to a Mickey and Mallory Natural Born Killers slant towards the end.
But each act works and any section of this movie could have been evolved into its own movie. Oh the comparisons to Let The Right One In are inevitable but Thirst delves into a world where the demon inside a vampire manipulates the personality of its host and it's this aspect I totally loved.
What I want to talk about that possibly other critics and reviews haven't gone over is that unique perspective on Thirst. When you can take the lore and utilize it to create conflict and raise questions others have not, the film begs to be talked about. So grab a bottle of True Blood and let's get started.
A failed medical experiment turns a man of faith into a vampire.
"Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me."
Do I need to rehash plot here? Well maybe just so we can get it out of the way. Father Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) is a Roman Catholic priest in Korea who gives Last Rites to the dying. With his faith wavering he decides to participate in a medical experiment to cure the deadly EV virus but a last minute transfusion of blood turns him into a night demon: a vampire.
Now hailed as a saint having survived, his transformation starts. The film approaches this in a stellar way. Blending black humor with a sense of wonder, Sang-hyeon tries not to kill at first but to get his fix in other ways. Realizing he has all the symptoms of vampirism (allergic to sunlight, superhuman strength and discovering he can heal from wounds after taking his first taste of blood from a car crash victim) he starts to think of inventive ways to quench his thirst. In one fantastic scene he drinks blood through a IV from a comatose "fat cake sponge guy".
The photography again is simply beautiful here as each scene is like a painting set in motion. The simple camera movements, the seemless CGI to see "wounds heal" is flawless. Sang-hyeon's life however is now a conflict filled with contradictions. Struggling to keep his morals he's been compromised and is now pretty much a walking oxymoron.
How does a man of faith live with the blood thirsty demon living inside him?
Kang-ho Song is simply fantastic as Sang. At times, he doesn't speak but his face emotes clear emotion. In a scene where his head priest wants some of his blood to live, you can see a spectrum of emotions engulf him. Love, duty, repulsion, hatred and fear. Solid stuff.
"Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass, against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Sang meets up with an old childhood friend Kang-woo, his beautiful wife and Kang-woo's mother. He joins his friend's mahjong game but becomes infatuated with Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim) who has led a troubled life as well (she being a indentured servant to her "mom" and wife to Kang-woo, a complete gross idiot). In one surreal scene she air stabs her husband's open mouth as he sleeps.
Later, Sang is overwhelmed by his new sexual needs and Tae-ju disgusted by her family they have an affair and a very arduous grunt-a-thon.
Happy Happy Fun Time!
Sang shares his secret with Tae-ju and we get a "hey I'm a vampire, look at the cool shit I can do" standard montage. Busting a lampost, jumping from a building and bending coins to impress the girl.
End Happy Happy Fun Time!
Sang's sense of justice comes in when Tae-ju tells him Kang-woo has been beating her. On a fishing trip, he drowns Kang-woo with his new GF's help. But his first kill goes badly for both of them as they then start to have waking nightmares.
Park's visuals here are unbelievably dreamlike. They are true waking nightmares as Kang-woo's drenched corpse invades them in their sleep. At times, it plays off goofy but I didn't mind the lightheartedness of it all. In a film like this, you really have to take the prepostrous and inject some humor. Think Buffy-ized moments.
Later, mommy in law gets stroked and becomes a helpless handicapper and both Sang and Tae-ju confront and reveal their trespasses.
Here is where I believe the film transcends into uber-awesome. I theorize that when one becomes a vampire, the demon aspect slowly blends into the personality of the infected. As a man of faith, Sang struggles with the urges of the evilness of being a vampire and his humanity. Whereas a human who becomes a vampire with evilness already ingrained, the demon qualities manifest themselves rather quickly (as we find out later with Tae-ju).
It's the morality of this mad love couple that's so interesting see evolve. Sang is almost virgin like, keeping with the high ground. Tae-ju, a victim of a crappy life does what we would all do. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Park takes the time to make us feel for Tae-ju then rips it away from us when she "reveals" her true self. Sang is a representation of who we SHOULD be but Tae-ju is a representation of who we REALLY are. Beautiful storytelling, the viewer isn't prepared for any of it.
"May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory, of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church."
With Tae-ju now a newly transformed vampire, they both resort to killing new victims to keep the EV sickness at bay and quenching their never ending thirst. Tae-ju is consumed by her new powers and in a very Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon like scene, Sang chases after her from building to building.
After a massacre to feed their hungers, a new transformation occurs within Sang-hyun. Accepting who he is and what he's made Tae-ju, we get a glorious ending that doesn't miss a beat.
Wow I sure wrote a lot didn't I?
Let me just say, I LOVED THIS MOVIE. Thirst is a tour de force masterpiece of storytelling, bloodsucking and faith. There is a checklist of what I think makes a good movie.
- An interesting concept/plot
- Engrossing characters
- Memorable scenes
- Humor and WTF moments
- A satisfying ending
Variety of blood in different forms
Ok-bin Kim as Tae-ju boobies (very yummy boobies I might add)
Tae-ju's kills (all of em)
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Trust me, you will never have seen a movie like this. This is a movie that will NEVER be remade by Hollywood. Well if it did, they'd turn Sang-hyun from a priest to a sanitation worker or some crap. Can you imagine if they did remake this? Conservative, church going Republicans would go ape shit. I'm surprised the Vatican didn't make seeing this film a mortal sin.
It's pretty long, 2 hours and 10 min or so and at times it tends to drag but taken as whole it doesn't disappoint. Thirst will definitely quench the rabid horror fan or even the most jaded viewer. Actually, it did!
Check out the trailer below.