Seen in Jeonju

Thirst (2009)

21st March 2010

lposter039198It’s been a little while since I have written a new review here…I have a few in notebooks in my office (Yes–I still write on paper) but these days, I have been busy with my new responsibilities at the university which I really enjoy. That does not mean I haven’t been watching movies and buying dvds though.  Last week, an order of six movies came in which included films like Come, Come, Come Upwards, I’m a Cyborg But That’s Ok and Park Chan-wook’s vampire film, Thirst.

The fact that it was Park Chan-wook making the film excited many people who remember the innovation he bought to films like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy. However, the movie did not do as well as expected in the box office and audiences opinions were divided as to whether they loved the film or hated it.  After watching it, I weighed in as simply liking it. After watching the movie again today on DVD, my opinion has not changed much. It is an acceptable vampire movie but fails to deliver anything new. 

The writing of the movie seems heavily influenced by the Ann Rice books (Interview with a Vampire, The Vampire Lestat...) where a very philosophical vampire, plagued with human emotions and foibles, winds up creating a partner far more ruthless and inhumane than himself.  And while one of the bloodsuckers views his powers as a curse he never chose, the other elected to have these abilities and the blood lust that comes with them. The conflict between the two styles and what it means to be a vampire drives the second half of the film. The first half focuses on Father Sang-hyeon trying to come to terms with his disease and the sinful yearnings it gives him.

‘Disease’ is the correct term when talking about Sang-hyeon’s condition. In fact he received vampirism from a blood transfusion after he volunteered as a guinea pig in attempting to find a cure for the Ebola Virus and being injected with the germs. (It does lead one to wonder what kind of vampire donates blood)  While the style of his infection is somewhat different than in traditional vampire films what follows is quite similar to modern cinematic vampires who could best be described by the term ‘emo’.

Oh, these new vampires think they are so dramatic while the wallow in self pity and regret of their actions. However, they are all six or seven decades too late. Countess Marya Zaleska in the classic 1936 film Dracula’s Daughter is perhaps the first and arguably the best of these guilt ridden undead as she tries everything from suspicians to psychology to cure herself. The fact that Sang-hyeon in Thirst is a priest adds to his agnst but otherwise but the potential that his religious belief could have brought to the film are wasted as the second half of the movie follows many modern conventions.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for this film to live up to. Overall, it the movie is not bad and I do not regret owning it. And it also should be credited for taking vampires out of the realm of comedy where they have been lingering in Korean cinema  for the last two decades. I guess I had just wished for a little bit more…

For my review of an older Korean vampire film, see Dracula in a Coffin (1982)

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