Review: Thirst

Thirst is the story of a Korean priest who contracts a blood disease and becomes a vampire. Already struggling with temptation, his enhanced senses, accentuated carnal drives, and need for blood complicate his relationship with his faith. Thirst rambled quite a bit but told an interesting story and provided some humorous moments of the black variety.

Rated: 3 / 5

Many stories have made their protagonist cope with a new reality after becoming a vampire. Thirst, directed by Korea's Chan-wook Park, does so from the perspective of a priest turned into a vampire from side effects of a medical experiment. Although in this story's universe most classic vampire tenants hold — must drink blood, sunlight kills, superhuman strength, enhanced senses — the priest-vampire maintains his human sensibilities and doesn't become an evil creature of the night. This raises the question: If a vampire doesn't kill to get its blood is it evil?

Does this sound too cerebral? Don't worry, this story thread is interrupted by an entirely new thread involving a slow but exorable assault on the Ten Commandments; by my count six of the ten go down in flames (possibly seven, I can't recall if God's name is taken in vain). Or maybe this thread is the central one and the theological thread an interesting digression. Regardless, watching the priest descend into sin one compromise at a time is alternatively intriguing and enjoyable. There's black humour (some unintentional, some not), a wonderful hapless-idiot performance by Shin Ha Kyun, and some hot vampire sex. The performances of Kang-ho Song as Priest Sang-hyeon and Ok-vin Kim as his seductress-lover Tae-joo sold the storyline. I was mesmerized by Ok-vin Kim's ability to portray Tae-joo as both hapless innocent and beautiful heartless bitch.

Thirst is more drama than horror. Although the vampire's specter is ever present and there are the obligatory blood-letting scenes de rigueur for vampire movies, there are relatively few special effect shots; most of the gory scenes are equivalent an episode of Dexter. This story is about Priest Sang-hyeon's struggle to stay true to his believes in spite of being a sinner. If you're looking for an event driven special-effects flick or gore-fest you'll be disappointed here. And if you're looking for a vampire love story you've found one, but this ain't Twilight!

Thirst raised interesting questions and provided good performances exploring these questions, but in the end the questions weren't answered in a completely satisfying way. Perhaps the diffused focus and long rambling nature of the storytelling defied a strong resolution, or perhaps I didn't completely understand director Chan-wook Park's story presentation. Still, partial satisfaction, engaging story questions, and some fun moments made Thirst a worthwhile watch.

Korean title: Bakjwi
The North American distribution of Thirst is in Korean with English subtitles.


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