From Park Chan-wook, director of the Vengeance Trilogy, comes Thirst, a vampire film that's just as grim and demented as you'd expect.
We follow a priest (Song Kang-ho) with an inherent wish to help people. He selflessly signs up for a potentially fatal experiment but something goes wrong (well, more wrong than planned) and although he miraculously comes back to life after dying of whatever disease he was injected with, he soon starts craving human blood as he comes to find that without it, the disease kicks in again and he grows weaker and weaker. Unwilling to kill, he instead starts drinking the blood of a man in a coma directly from a tube going into his arm. So far, so weird. He then meets Tae-ju (the beautiful Kim Ok-bin), a Cinderella-style character who lives with a step-mother and a boyfriend she can't stand. She comes off as just moody and a bit emo until, little by little, we start to realise how nuts she truly is. She starts having an affair with our good old vampire priest but things soon turn sour and a whole bunch of twisted, messed-up things happen. It's your typical story of murder, guilt, love, lust and jumping really high.
As with the likes of Lady Vengeance or Oldboy, Thirst is unapologetically brutal and cruel. It's a stylish and terrific-looking film but the vibe throughout is so dark and unnerving that it feels gritty and dirty. The sex scenes in this movie are long, clinical and detailed without being pornographic, though I do think there's a bit too much of that going on in the middle part of the film where the plot kinda gets distracted a few times. Luckily, all this culminates in one of the most intense and best vampire transformation scenes in cinema: it's violent, harsh, bloody, sexy, disgusting. It's awesome. The last half hour of the film feels much more like a full-on vampire film and that's a cool reward considering that the first half of Thirst was more of a slow-burning, not all that vampiric, character piece. Ultimately, the film gives you what you want and its ending, as appropriate as it is for those characters, still feels somewhat bittersweet. Thirst is both subtle and unsubtle so it's got something for everybody. Song Kang-ho makes an appropriately tortured vampire but it's Kim Ok-bin's love interest who steals the show giving an impressive, eclectic, daring performance showing off a limitless range and a willingness to really go all-out. Her character reveals herself to be a true sadistic, masochistic mess reminiscent a bit of Claudia from Interview With The Vampire.
Thirst is slickly executed and looks great but will still make your skin crawl. It's a bit more erotic than you'd expect but it still builds-up to a damn fine vampire movie, one which boasts some brilliant performances and unforgettably insane sequences. It's another unsettling mini-masterpiece courtesy of Park Chan-wook.
Twisted, sexy and bloody.
Like all great vampire films.