Truth and Movies

Thirst

Review by Jonathan Crocker @JonathanCrocker

Directed by

Park Chan-wook

Starring

Hae-suk Kim Kang-ho Song Ok-bin Kim

Anticipation.

A vampire shocker from the Vengeance Trilogy maestro? There will be blood.

Enjoyment.

Brilliant and barmy but boring in spurts.

In Retrospect.

It’s got problems, sure. But once again, Park delivers something dark, witty and original.

It’s got problems, sure. But once again, Park delivers something dark, witty and original.

Vampire mythology follows the same pulsing vein. Mysterious, angsty stranger with a taste for blood falls madly in love with a timid, beautiful girl and must fight his urges to drag her into his deathly world. Twilight, True Blood and Let the Right One In proved that the bloodsucker is still undead and kicking on screen. But trust us, for all its flaws, Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s vampire romance leaves more jagged teeth-marks than any of them.

Korean superstar Song Kang-ho (most recently seen in The Good, the Bad, the Weird) provides a classic Park protagonist: a man losing his mind and his soul. Gooey body-horror kicks off the action as Song’s pure-hearted priest dies of a grisly skin disorder after a failed medical experiment – only to be born again as a vampire with a healing touch thanks to an infected blood transfusion.

But as he transforms, so does Thirst, sliding giddily between ha-ha-aargh funny, cerebral thematics and schizoid eroticism. As priest becomes predator, our anti-hero begins a battle of morality, mortality and – most of all – the hot throb of doomed love in the shape of winsome housewife Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), who turns out to have an even blacker taste for blood than him.

Red blood and black humour spurt hard as Thirst reveals itself to be one of the most deliciously skewed incisions into the vampire romance subgenre. In fact, Park’s perversity is too much for the movie to handle. Thirst drags on way too long (a ludicrous 133 minutes) and spins out of control in its central third.

It all totters wildly between bizarro cartoon and Gothic tragedy, before rebalancing things for a fantastic final half hour of deadly games. Park’s eye for killer visual style is there, maxing out in a scene of colour-coordinated carnage in a white-wall apartment. But infecting every scene, it’s his grinning arterial wit that makes the movie such a delicious feast, featuring sex (weird and exhausting), claret-slurping (through a straw) and violence (via a corkscrew).

Feeling that vibe big time is former beauty queen Kim Ok-vin, who gives a feral, sexy, delirious performance that proves a fantastic match for Song, as they prowl from love to hate and back again. “Vampires are cuter than I thought,” she decides. Mercifully, she’s not talking about Robert Pattinson.

Published 15 Oct 2009

Tags: Park Chan-wook South Korean Cinema

Anticipation.

A vampire shocker from the Vengeance Trilogy maestro? There will be blood.

Enjoyment.

Brilliant and barmy but boring in spurts.

In Retrospect.

It’s got problems, sure. But once again, Park delivers something dark, witty and original.

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