Korean filmmaking, for most of us, brings to mind the painfully bad “Dragon Wars”. For the rest of us, it still bring up the painfully bad (and aforementioned), “Dragon Wars”. Unfortunately, my cinematic travels have not included a whole lot of Korea – none of it, in fact. So, I went into this screening almost completely blind, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ideally, a critic should go into a movie with no prejudices, judging the movie solely on its own merits.
And ideally, Hollywood should turn out movies that are entertaining and not just ground out for the sake of making a buck.
But I digress.
“Thirst” is the story of a catholic priest, Sang-hyun (played earnestly and somberly by Song Kang-Ho). The good father would like to save the world, but unfortunately he is unable to save it or the world is simply unwilling to be saved. In what he feels is a necessary measure to save at least one person, he volunteers for a medical experiment that is seeking a cure for a, thus far, lethal virus. Sang-hyun is no exception: he dies on the table, only to be brought back by small infusion of blood. Hailed as, “The Bandaged Saint,” he returns home to continue his ministry and slowly discovers that he is a vampire. He now not only hungers for blood, but requires it to stave off the gruesome effect of the killer virus that still ravages his body. Along the way, he encounters a childhood acquaintance, Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun) and his family, with whom he rekindles his friendship with. However, his feelings for Kang-woo’s wife, Te-ju (Kim Ok-vi) begin him down avenues previously unexplored. Thirst_poster
Before I go any further, let me tell you this – if you’re expecting a standard Hollywood horrorfest (and if you don’t know what that is, I refer you back to my article, Everything You Know About Horror Is Wrong) and that’s what you want – stay home. “Thirst” is a movie that will leave you chewing over it weeks after you’ve seen it. I know I still am. It’s a movie that, almost clinically, examines what might happen to a person if one day he discovered he was a vampire. There’s no pulsing goth-rock sound track nor is there a sweeping, lush orchestral theme, there is just Sang-hyun coming to grips with the new demands of his body. Director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) weaves together an elaborate, if not somewhat detached tale of Sang-hyun’s inevitable crawl towards darkness and also of the equally inevitable emancipations of Te-ju. It’s certainly not a movie for the faint of mind. It won’t hit you over the head with what it wants to say, but is speaks plainly and without decoration.
The performances all around are good all around (ranging from solid to Holy Shit!) and the cinematography is beautiful and sometimes downright sublime. So, if you ever find yourself in need of something more substantial than the standard popcorn movie, “Thirst” is for you. Just be prepared to think.
You have been warned.