Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Chan-wook Park is synonymous with tense Asian suspense films. The Korean director caught my attention with his Mr. Vengeance trilogy. Park is back, sinking his teeth into the vampire genre with Thirst, which was released in 2009 under the Korean name Bakjwi. Vampire films (read that Twilight) have gotten soft and have lost their edge. Park is back with a film that tests new boundaries with a film that is certain to make your stomach hurt.
Thirst opens with dialogue between a priest, Sang-Hyeon (Kang-ho Song) who feels called to assist a study being conducted by a controversial Order to stop a debilitating illness called EV. During the tests, Hyeon is given a blood transfusion. Unknown to Hyeon, the blood has been taken from a vampire. Hyeon is the only subject among fifty who is healed from the EV, creating a throng of believers that seek him out hoping that he can heal them (or their loved ones).
Hyeon does everything in his power to fight the beast lurking inside him, but requires blood to maintain his health. Without the blood, lesions begin forming on Hyeon, evidence of the other monster (EV) lurking in his blood. Hyeon seeks a peaceful alternative to hunting for his blood, feeding instead on a hospitalized friend who is in a coma. But Hyeon experiences more than just a blood lust, which causes him to be manipulated into engaging in activities he would otherwise resist. Hyeon's sins follow him and eventually consume him, forcing Hyeon to make an impossible decision.
Vampire films have been done many ways. Thirst is an intelligently written look at the genre. Many taboos are explored in this film, along with enough gore to put this film very close to the slasher genre. Thirst is definitely not for the weak-hearted. The special effects are often stomach wrenching. Hyeon is a fundamentally good person. A priest who sought out the disease EV because he felt God had called him to help people. This dictates Hyeon's decision making matrix, which more than once leads him to kill those he loves. The plot creates circumstances that challenge traditional mores. Excellent dialogue (the sub-titles were pretty good...with only a couple of odd translations) combined with an intriguing plot were indicative of a well thought out plot. Park co-wrote the script along with Seo-gyeong Jeong.
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