Friday, April 20, 2012

Asian Horror Review Thirst

THIRST (2009)
Released in America by Universal Studios
Runtime: 133 minutes
Colleen Wanglund

THIRST from director Chan-wook Park (OLDBOY {2003}, LADY VENGEANCE {2005}), tells the story of a Catholic priest, Father Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song), who volunteers for a high-risk experiment testing a vaccine for a deadly virus, the Emmanuel Virus, which causes death through massive blood loss. The priest ultimately becomes infected and near death, is given a blood transfusion in an attempt to save him. He is the only survivor out of fifty taking part in the experiments, thus becoming almost saint-like to the faithful seeking him out for prayers of healing. Six months after his miraculous recovery, Father Sang-hyeon ends up living with the family of a childhood friend that he seems to have cured of cancer. Soon he begins experiencing strange sensations, and the virus seems to have returned....until he drinks the blood of a comatose patient in the hospital in which he volunteers. The priest has become a vampire.

This is NOT your typical vampire story. We see no fangs, no physical transformations, but he does have super-human abilities, such as instant healing when wounded and increased physical strength. He even continues to be a priest, drinking small amounts only when necessary. Ultimately he falls in love with Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim) the wife of the man whose cancer he cured, and she seems to return those feelings. However, with a Park movie, nothing is ever really as it seems. He turns Tae-ju into a vampire and she begins to pull away from him, reveling in her new life. She had been abused by her husband’s family and now has been given the freedom she so desired. Sang-hyeon continues to struggle with his desire for Tae-ju as well as trying to keep her from going off the deep end.

This is Park's first feature-length horror movie (he directed the segment “Cut” in THREE…EXTREMES {2004}) and I thought it was great; I’m a huge fan of his other films. The screenplay, co-written by Park and Seo-Gyeong Jeong, is inspired by the book Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. It was a little longer than I expected but it didn’t feel that way. I liked the priest, and empathized with him when it seemed as though he was being used by everyone around him. As with any Park film, THIRST delves into the human psyche, examining how similar circumstances can affect people differently. The end was amazing and totally unexpected. The only problem I have with it is that there is really no explanation as to how he became a vampire, except for a hint at the transfusion....but where did they get the blood from in the first place? I recommend this movie to any horror fan, especially if you like something a little bit different.

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