Thursday, October 15, 2015
Thirst is another gloriously warped and violent movie from Korean director Park Chan-Wook, arguably one of the best and most idiosyncratic of filmmakers working today. His movies have a way of taking a common storyline - vampires, home invasion, revenge - and presenting them unconventionally and in unexpected ways. Often, his movies have strong elements of black humor and irony. All this accurately describes Thirst.
The movie begins with a good-hearted priest named Father Sang-hyun (Kang-ho Song), who volunteers for a medical experiment that exposes him to a deadly virus, but after a transfusion, he survives where everyone else has died. He makes a complete recovery, becoming thought of as a modern saint. Before long, he discovers he has a terrible thirst for blood and must seek shelter from sunlight. He has become a vampire and so begins his descent into depravity, which includes murder and sex.
Why a vampire would donate his or her own blood for use by a hospital, I have no idea. You'd think vampires would treat blood banks the way criminals treat banks but apparently not in Thirst. Maybe this generous vampire was a prankster. Or maybe the poor creature was lonely. Maybe it was a mistake. It's fun to think about.
Let's be honest: many vampire stories are about sex and its alluring but dangerous thrill. Thirst makes this common subtext more explicit, bringing it to the forefront. Sang-hyun is a repressed, virginal priest who has never known women, but once he becomes a vampire, he finds he can't control any of his "sinful hungers," whether it be for blood or sex. Early on he tries resisting; he gets an erection and tries beating it down with a recorder. Later, the apparent waterlogged ghost of a murder victim gets between Sang-hyuan and his sexual partner, and they amusingly try to ignore it.
Before long, lust turns to murder. Tae-ju is the wife of Sang-hyun's childhood friend Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun). Kang-woo himself is ill, and his mother Lady Ra (Have-suk Kim) is overbearing and domineering, so Tae-ju tries to convince Sang-hyun to kill her husband and transform her into a vampire (she even fakes physical abuse to further motivate him). This warped love triangle, along with Sang-hyun's increasing corruption as he indulges in his forbidden hungers, makes up the heart of the movie.
When the movie focuses on the relationship triangle and Sang-hyun's increasingly moral imbalance, Thirst is a wonderful modern vampire tale. It's not for the squeamish, but if you have the stomach for it, it's darkly humorous and twisted. Thirst bring fresh blood to an old genre.