After the Twilight franchise nearly ruined the vampire film with its sour and teeny-bopper mix of staleness, Coldplay, and glitter, filmmakers set out to reinvigorate the genre by telling their own stories of the often bloody, sometimes erotic, and very dark nature of the vampire. Fortunately, there was Let The Right One In (2008), its terrific remake Let Me In (2010), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and director Park-Chan Wook’s stunning 2009 thriller, Thirst, which lends a superb eye on not just vampirism, but also desire, disease, and the reflection of faith.
The story centers on a Catholic priest who volunteers to help find a cure for a virus infecting Africa. He’s given a blood transfusion that not only saves his life, but also turns him into a vampire. He gets the usual symptoms: aversion to sunlight, super-strength, and the ability to fly. As he struggles to maintain his eventual hunger for blood, he encounters a broken young woman, ironically the disparate wife of a childhood friend of his. After their once tender and highly sexual love affair starts to fizzle, he ends up killing and turning her into a vampire, which awakens her own repression and bloodlust. As usual, the life of a vampire has its consequences, and he can no longer kill people, and in the end, they both gives themselves up to the sun.
Chan-Wook crafts a chilling and darkly humorous, original vision of vampire lore with his brilliant composition, attention to detail and story, and most importanly, his actors. Both Song Kang-Ho and Kim Ok-Vin, as the priest and his new love, are wonderful to behold. They form a wicked love story with completely compelling characterizations of people on the outskirts, finding new liberations on life (especially after death), but eventually turning on each other. Their chemistry is also very strong, due to highly arousing sex scenes that are not just for show. The sex is there for a reason and serves a point, which is one thing that many other films seem to forget. You can always count on Chan-Wook to dial up the intelligence to a ten, and beyond.
Although the special features are very slim, I think the excellent audio commentary by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman definitely makes up for that. He goes into really incredible detail about Chan-Wook himself; his films; the actors and their careers, as well as the amazing cinematography by Chung Chung-Hoon, and the technical mastery used in the film. It’s a must listen! There are also trailers, including the one for the film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Brick (2005), and Hannibal (2001).
There is a reason why Chan-Wook is a genius at filmmaking. His films are so confronting, visceral, and completely absorbing. It’s the style and dedication that he throws into them. His work should always be admired, perhaps for all-time. I definitely recommend Thirst, because in my opinion, it’s a masterpiece!
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