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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 07.17.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Park Chan-Wook
Writers: Park Chan-Wook & Chung Seo-Kyung
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Hal MacDermot
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Maybe it’s because I’m a lapsed Catholic with many inner torments, but when I heard that auteur Korean director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) had made a movie about a Priest who becomes a vampire, I was dying to see it. And what a brilliant and twisted movie this is. Thirst is an instant cult classic and I reckon a large number of Quiet Earth fans will love it. It’s also something of a head-do, so if you are a sensitive candy-ass beware. Forget teen girl Twilight angst, think more: teeth grinding laceration, pain, dark grave humor, eroticized violence, religious subtext, amazing cinematography, and whoa did he just whack himself “there” with a recorder, OUCH. Oh yes, and Thirst deservedly won the Jury Prize at Cannes this year.

The hero, a goodly Korean priest (Song Kang Ho, great actor, star of the Korean horror/monster flick Host), goes to Africa to help out plague victims who are suffering from nasty skin blisters and organ implosion. He gets infected and takes an emergency blood transfusion to save his life. Turns out the blood he took had a certain special spice to it, and the mild mannered Priest (sic) develops his own slurpy taste for blood. God damn it. His brain says be a good man, but his body is now under the control of the 7 deadly sins, and especially a thirst for blood, and a lust for Tae-ju (ex-model Kim Ok-vin), who if I was going to be damned forever, I would also chose as a suck, oh I’m sorry I mean soul-mate. Tae-ju lives with her childish and annoying husband and a stepmother from hell, and she’s treated like a dog. But we all know how good this director is at doing revenge…

You need to know that this movie is beautifully shot and composed. Early on, our characters are neat, emotionally stunted and dress in neutral colors. Park Chan-wook worked with his usual cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, who I think is a master of control. As hunger takes over the Priest’s life and the inner demons rage, he swaps his religious uniform for casual dress and his tidy hair gets messed up. As Tae-ju throws off the repression of her bitch stepmother and embraces sex and blood, she changes bland clothing for beautiful blue, and goes from looking pale and ill, to positively glowing health, which is rather ironic because now she’s a vampire who feasts from blood. There’s also a great control of the scene “space.” During emotionally confused transformation to creatures of blood lust, we spend physical time on staircases, or in small rooms crowded with furniture. Later, as Tae-ju cuts all emotional ties, she cuts her ties with gravity too and she leaps from buildings to building. Sound-wise, the sucking of the blood and noisy kissing is loud and it’s part of the celebration. And the score is great: wind instruments, Bach, and Korean pop tunes from the 50s. The Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One played on the contrast of white snow against the occasional splash of red blood. Thirst also uses the color contrast concept. When the Priest and his crazed lover move in together, he physically paints the place white and hangs up neon strip lighting, and it’s a great contrast with the blood games to follow.

Like all of Park Chan-wook’s movies, the Director is not at all afraid to go there. One of my favorite images is the Priest playing his recorder and vomiting blood through it. There’s also a deal of laceration and neck stabbing and noisy blood sucking. Hey, did you know if you can’t get the blood out of a corpse because the heart’s stopped pumping the blood around, what you do is hang them over the bath on the shower rail and then saw the ankles off. Voila. To be honest, I had to actually close my eyes a couple of times, but I’m a bit of a wuss really. This is a movie that embraces excess, but it’s so much more. If Mr. and Mrs. MacBeth thought they had problems with Banquo’s ghost, they should check out the dude who haunts the Priest and Tae-ju. A down trodden woman who is suddenly liberated by blood and lust and completely embraces violence and sin: I’m too scared to analyze that, but I know I love it. Thirst was inspired by Emile Zola’s book Therese Raquin, which I haven’t read, but you could always try if you want more backstory and to annoy your friends. The dynamic between the Priest and Tae-ju is a crazy rollercoaster ride of blood and sex, love and hate. When Tae-ju flips into full on psycho mode, things get really interesting, emotionally, but also dramatically – because there’s a huge change in pace and tone in this movie, from the joyful exploration and embrace of bloody passion mixed with melancholy and dark humor, into something darker and more tragic.

Thirst was a box office smash hit in Korea. A movie that’s deep, dark, embraces sex and violence and talks about the soul – we need more of those. The movie is a financial collaboration between Focus Features (Hollywood) and C.J. Entertainment (Korean), and I’m really hoping such cooperative ventures will continue. It may allow more adventurous movies to get made, and who knows, also here in the U.S.

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Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

I don't usually like Park Chan-Wook - and indeed found the first third of Thirst interminable, so much so I nearly walked out - but wow, it really does make up for it. Complex, sickening, sexy, it's superb. A great year for vampire movies :)


oyunu indir (11 years ago) Reply

I think a successful film. gives pleasure to watch...

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