MINI-REVIEW OF “THIRST” (2009)
by L.L. Soares
THIRST is the new movie by Park Chan-wook, the director who gave us some recent classics like OLDBOY (2003) and SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002). He can be a top-notch filmmaker, so when I heard he had made a vampire movie, I was eager to see it. The movie, THIRST, is an uneven affair that involves self-sacrificing priest Father Sang -hyeon (Kang-ho Song) who allows himself to be a guinea pig for a vaccine for the Ebola Virus. Out of 500 subjects, he is the only volunteer who survives the ordeal and is instantly a celebrity of sorts (his “followers” see him as a healing priest).Sang-hyeon goes back to his priestly duties, expecting his life to go back to the way it was, but it’s not that easy. It turns out the reason he survived the testing was because he got a transfusion of vampire’s blood (something that is never explained), and he thus turns into a bloodsucker himself. The symptoms of the virus return to ravage his body, and the only way he can cure himself is through regular quantities of blood. He begins by taking small amounts from coma victims, but is clearly having a moral dilemma with all this.
The vampire blood also brings out his suppressed passions, which include his overwhelming lust for Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim), the wife of a patient he supposedly “cured” of cancer by prayer. While visiting the man at home, he becomes obsessed with Tae-ju and eventually gives in to his desires, which results in her becoming a vampire as well.
THIRST is a little slow in the first half, and I wasn’t a big fan of the priest character. But once Tae-ju becomes a vampire, the movie shifts into high gear. All her life she has been treated like a dog – ever since she was left with another family when her own abandoned her at the age of 3. With her newfound powers, she no longer has to grovel through life and really takes joy in her ability to decide between life and death for her victims. Lacking the moral conscience that torments Father Sang-hyeon, she is able to fully enjoy her new “life.”
Whatever problems I have with the movie disappear once Tae-ju becomes a vampire. She is a revelation and the main reason to see this movie. She is so good in THIRST that it’s one of my favorite performances of 2009. So, despite its flaws, I liked it more than enough to recommend it.
© Copyright 2009 by L.L. Soares