Thirst

Thirst movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
A priest becomes infected and dies after volunteering for an experimental medical procedure, only to be brought back to life by a blood transfusion of unknown origin. His new life is torn between his old faith and a new lust for blood and his childhood friend's wife.
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-vin, Kim Hae-sook, Shin Ha-kyun
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Running time: 2:14
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Editorial Review

One would think that moviegoers are not exactly chomping at the bit, let alone the neck, for yet another vampire flick. But moviegoers shouldn't worry: It would be out of character for the devilishly creative South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook to cook up a meal of warmed-over "Twilight" and garlic braids. The director and co-writer of such arty knuckle-busters as "Old Boy" and "Lady Vengeance," Park conjures images of woozy-making brutality that imprint themselves upon the subconscious like psychic tattoos.

In "Thirst," a self-abnegating priest (played with soulful and bodily abandon by Korean superstar Song Kang-ho) submits himself to a vaccine research project, only to succumb to a deadly virus and rebound as a sex-starved vampire. The chief object of his desire is the miserably married Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), who plays an indentured servant to a sickly husband and a family of mah-jongg players, lorded over by the imperious matriarch, Lady Ra (a memorable Kim Hae-sook).

Taking the basic elements of mile Zola's "Therese Raquin," Park finesses a dryly hilarious mixture of out-there sexuality, diabolical humor and wince-inducing bloodletting that exceed the most passionate conceits of that 19th-century practitioner of French naturalism. Like Zola, however, Park's catastrophically possessed lovers are ruled by laws of human psychology; beneath all the supernaturally murderous doings and bungee-like leaping a la "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a mundane undercurrent of guilt-soaked sexual repression and domestic abuse. "Thirst" is good, insolent fun for about two-thirds of the way, before it stumbles and drowns in a pool of its own excess. Still, you can't help but admire a horror movie that prompts us to wonder how vampires with a surplus of blood got by before the advent of Tupperware.

-- Jan Stuart (August 14, 2009)

Contains graphic bloody violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content, nudity and language.