Director – Chan-wook Park
Cast – Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, Hae-sook Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, In-hwan Park, Dal-su Oh, Young-chang Song, Mercedes Cabral, Eriq Ebouaney
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Well it is about darn time that South Korean film maestro Chan-wook Park tackles the horror genre, and unsurprisingly he added his own flare and style to one of horror’s oldest sub-genres…vampires. While this is not your typical vampire film, it does stay true to the lore and comes with many other elements unique to the sub-genre, but be prepared to battle the Zzzs in this snoozer.
Thirst stars South Korean star Kang-ho Song(The Host, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance) as Priest Sang-hyeon, a priest constantly faced with the sick and the dying due to his work at a hospital. A deadly virus has been plaguing the countryside, and Priest Sang-hyeon volunteers for an experiment aimed at finding an antidote to the virus. The experiment leaves him near death, but he is miraculously healed when he receives a blood transfusion accidentally containing vampire blood. At first Priest Sang-hyeon is seen as a hero for being the only individual to survive the deadly experiment, but soon enough the vampire blood takes its affects and he realizes his true meaning in life: the sins of the flesh.
I knew not to expect the usual vampire film with this one, and even with that knowledge I was given something I did not expect. Chan-wook Park took the vampire sub-genre and dropped it on its head with this one. The storyline is complex, mixing Shakespearian tragedy, dark Gothic horror, murderous love triangles, religious commentary, and lots of brilliant vampire sex. There is so much going on in this film that at times I felt that if it were not for the vampire element that this would not be anywhere near a horror film at all.
I really dug the idea of a priest bombarded with death trying to selflessly assist in finding a cure to the epidemic going on. It is obvious Priest Sang-hyeon is searching for another calling despite his “higher” calling, and what he receives as a result of his selflessness is a bastardized calling that he did not expect. We watch the turmoil this brings him, which eventually turns to the freedom he was looking for, after many tragic events of course. The twists and turns are constant throughout this piece, and a full attention span shall be required of the viewer to make any sense of what is going on.
As usual, Park’s direction is outstanding and is definitely the highlight of the film. Right from the get-go we are thrown into his captivating visuals which leave any and all big-budget Hollywood films in the dust. He brings out superb performances from his acting crew, and expertly executes each of the tragedies we get in this flick, and with amazing camerawork. We do not get as much gore as you would expect from a vampire film, but we get gore nonetheless and despite him relying on CGI gore at times his execution was great nonetheless.
So if the story is great and the direction is great then why only a 7-rating? Well, because this film drags like crazy. Once again we get a great Korean film that follows the idea that the film must be at least 2 hours in length regardless of subject matter. If you go into this flick with a caffeine high then you should be fine, but honestly after the first hour I was really wanting this film to end already, and I was not even halfway through. There is so much going on with the film that you must really be looking for a film like this to stay engaged, and while this was a beautiful film to WATCH it did not keep me engaged due to its overdone storyline.
Overall, this is a great film that comes with excellent direction, a complex story, but in the end tends to drag due to too much and too little going on at the same time. Fans of Chan-wook Park should find this one mostly enjoyable, and should know what to expect as well.