If you like messed up Korean horror movies, then you are familiar with Park Chan-wook’s work. He recently tackled the English language with ‘Stoker’ but one of his films that is sometimes lost in the shuffle is ‘Thirst.’
Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a priest who visits patients at the local hospital. He volunteers for an experimental cure for an deadly virus. This is unsuccessful and he is infected with the disease. His fortunes change after he receives a blood transfusion, triggering a complete recovery. This cure comes with a cost, though. He must avoid the sunlight and finds himself drinking blood from comatose patients and blood transfusion packs at the hospital, so he doesn’t have to kill anyone to feed his thirst.
An old friend of Sang-hyun, Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun) invites him over to play some mahjong. Sang-hyun is attracted to Kang-woo’s wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin). She is very unhappy in her marriage and begins secretly seeing Sang-hyun.
His condition makes any kind of relationship difficult, especially as he learns how he can survive with it while he struggles with his faith.
All the while, the bodies keep piling up as vampirism turns out to be a bigger curse than a gift.
As much as this is a vampire story, it is also a dysfunctional love story. Sang-hyun and Tae-Ju are somewhat mismatched. He is curious about love and is attracted to her and she sees him as a way out of her unhappy marriage. When things go a bit further than some simple adultery, their relationship and dynamic changes.
This isn’t really a horror movie because things don’t get very suspenseful. There are some disturbing images, gore and sequences, but overall, things manage to stay grim, yet light, if that makes any sense. There is a definite element of dark comedy at work. It’s not uncommon these days, but the sequences where dead people come back (Is it real? Are they imaginary?) are highlights.
Those familiar with Park’s other movies like ‘Oldboy’ and ‘Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance’ will recognize the stylistic approach that the film has. The slightly unconventional approach to vampires (there is very little in terms of neck biting)could bring to mind that old George Romero gem ‘Martin.’
Special features include: nothing.
Outside of his ‘Vengeance’ trilogy, ‘Thirst’ might be the best film that Park Chan-wook has been involved in. It has enough interesting things to say about vampires while respecting enough about the vampire myth to keep things grounded.
Rated R 134 minutes 2009