Thirst (2009)

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Overall Rating 70%
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Ranked #2,407
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Sang-hyun, a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh. --IMDb
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Review by Ginose
Added: November 25, 2009
Park Chan-wook is an amazing director.

Virtually every movie in his filmography is an acclaimed gem and he's managed to keep suit up until now and then some. The "Vengeance Trilogy" has been praised throughout almost all circles in the world of cinema; his short works have been a continuation of such wonder. Each film has as wonderful a visual style as it does writing, plot, pacing, acting, etc. and he's yet to break this suit.

This is, of course, due to the fact that he's directed relatively nothing. Mention how wonderful the "Vengeance Trilogy" is and you've already mentioned nearly half of his work. So, yes, they are all gems, but they're so rare that we have nothing to really worry about, thus far. He's showed no signs of decline because he rarely gives us enough to go on. Is this bad? Not necessarily, but it does keep people like me heatedly awaiting each release of his. I am still kicking my ass over not seeing "I'm a Cyborg, but That's Okay", and I clung to the opportunity to see "Thirst" when my dear lady found it, and we both decided it to be a good night of viewing; and, as if it came as ANY surprise, we were both right.

Sang-hyun is a priest who, in an effort to try to do some good in the world, agrees to be a test subject for a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus; this, failing miserably, does nothing more than infect and kill him. Attempting to save his life, the doctor's give Sang-hyun a blood transfusion during his surgery, only to give him blood infected by something else: vampirism. Trying to readapt his life as a priest with his newfound infamy as the blessed-priest who survived (the only one of five-hundred) and slowly learning of his new abilities. He attempts to stick to a life at night, meeting with his old school friend, Kang-woo, and his family, joining them for weekly mah-jong games and slowly, but surely, growing into his vampiric desires. Learning more of them as he learns more of Kang-woo's miserable, lonely wife Tae-ju, whom, herself, is feeling more and more of this strange attraction she has towards Sang-hyun.

Sure, this sounds like it's really falling into this recent uptake into the world of popular vampire romance, but I can DAMNED-well tell you that there is essentially nothing in common between Park's latest works and this recent uprising in rovamptic-dramas (God, I hope that term hasn't caught on) aside from vampires and... well... romance. Truth be told, this takes the very classic approach to the vampire mythos in its entirety, but still manages to put that twinge of humanity into it. It certainly didn't touch the mortal-sin of completely humanizing the vampire, no, it still approaches them as, deep-down, being heartless killing machines that view humans as cattle to feast upon, but not without the moral qualms of a human still dealing with his faith as, well, a human. This INSTANTLY sparks huge points from me, as I cannot tell you how much the Anne Rice vampire movement has broken my spirit in the genre. The romanticized image of the vampire must be broken, I tell you, as it's doing less-good for the world of the cliché romance and more harm to the world of horror. My two-cents, but I feel I needed to get that thought out of the way before I discuss the technical merits of this film.

Story and style wise, Park has hit another one right out of the fucking... eh... park... The story is so fresh and so well assembled; it never once dabbles for too long in any real aspect of the story, providing grounds to show the characters' developments without making it feel boring or lacking. Really, the biggest problem probably IS its refusal to stay the course with any particular part. This makes some of the sequences feel a bit rushed, overall, and, at times, had me scratching my head wondering how the fuck we got to Kang-woo's "coming between" the couple and, eventually, the final 30-minutes. I'm not going to try to talk it down, either, simply because it's the biggest flaw, it can tend to be a serious problem, but this seems like a serious writing error, rather than an error on the films behalf.

Visually, this is one of the man's greatest works. Every set and scene has such a perfect design and, mixed with the actual story and a lot of the, rather gruesome, imagery, it paints a perfect setting for this sorrowful (though, often rather hilarious) tale of love and the war between a man's belief and a man (vampire's) nature. Spectacular lighting and use of color are already tokens of Chan-wook's style and this may be the most impressive use of it yet, from the rooms of Sang-hyun's hospital to the "day-room" he builds in the latter of the film, I found myself smiling happily at each piece of eye-candy offered and gobbling it whole; since his earliest works I've been able to say this about each film of his I've seen, and this applies to so few more so than this one.

Acting is, again, in his familiar suit, excellent. I will, of course, give special credit to Shin Ha-kyun (Kang-woo) for painting a hilariously obtuse brilliance to the boorish, childlike behavior of his character. He had me laughing in each scene throughout, especially in his later appearances, I don't think there was a better cast character aside from Song Kang-ho (Sang-hyun), who showed a remarkable palate of emotions through his characters long, often very painful, journey into his new existence. I truly didn't see a weak-link from anyone in this film, and, damn, I won't lie, I tried. There's really very precious little I can take away form this movie.

So, in summation, this is the perfect vampire-romance, despite some glaring pacing issues, throughout. If you're dying for a GOOD take on the sub-genre, some proof that vampires are still, technically, horror material, or are just interested in a good, gory, fun yet sympathetic look at the life of a vampire then this is a choice that I can advise above most anything you'll catch on the market here in the states.

I truly cannot advise this one enough.

Greg Follender #1: Greg Follender - added November 26, 2009 at 4:13pm
Excellent review, Gino... I concur wholeheartedly with your analysis for the most part.

A lot of his more "oblique" pacing devices are all present in his earlier films as well... you just may have simply accepted it because his earlier films had more of a direct and driving plotline than this more meandering tale. Look back over "Oldboy" and especially "Lady Vengeance" again and you'll notice that there are more than a few "what the... how did we get here?" moments to be found as well. It's just that some of his more allegorical imagery becomes slightly jarring when it is shoe-horned so tightly between seriously realistic or dramatic scenes. Is it a weakness... or just the man's trademark? Interesting...

I'm SO glad someone found this as refreshing as I did... I hate being the only one on the bandwagon;)
This is easily as arresting as "Let the Right One In" for completely different reasons... and was one of the most entertaining films I've seen this year!

An unreserved 9/10... makes the Twilight films seem like sophomoric garbage... with glitter sprinkled on it.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added December 1, 2009 at 10:44am
No, no... I just watched "Oldboy", and, though it may be because of the plot, it's assembly was anything but irrelevant. Meandering or not, there were just a trifle too many of those moments; I did notice alot of them in "Lady Vengeance", and I haven't seen "I'm a Cyborg, but That's Okay", but it seems this will become more reccuring in his more visually driving works.

Could it be BECOMING a trademark? Possibly, but I hope not. It really drowns the script when I see so many of them in a single 2-hour length.
Greg Follender #3: Greg Follender - added December 1, 2009 at 5:29pm
I never said the jarring scenes were irrelevant... just a bit distracting from the clean narrative at points and they tend to slow story momentum.
It's much more noticeable in his later work as he grows more confident and feels more able to challenge his viewers.... at least that's how it seems to me.

There are a couple of moments even in Oldboy that could have done with some trimming (IMHO), but I'd rather have that sort of experimentation than predictability.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance seems the sleekest of his films to me, storyline-wise... and it still clocks in at a muscular 122 minutes and explores two differing perspectives of the same story within it;) He's just got a really quirky sense of progression that seems to be getting... well... more odd... as he gains experience.

Personally, it doesn't bother me overmuch... it's just not always to my taste. But then again, if those are the extent of my complaints regarding his films... I'm HAPPY to have them as long as he continues to crank out such innovative told and beautifully shot films!

Or,.. to put it in proper perspective; one needs only think of how Hollywood would have depicted the scene of him leaping from building to building with the elfin Tae-ju in his arms;)

Ginose #4: Ginose - added December 2, 2009 at 12:42am
Hmmm... I can see what you mean, if you consider the direct approach and assembly of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" angainst "Lady Vengeance", but, again, I feel that it only seems to rear its head when he has more visualy-striking works going on. Taking everything he did prior to the "Vengeance" trilogy into account, perhaps it is just him experimenting with the pacing-per-scene ratio, but I noticed he'll only do it when the opportunity to provide something to LOOK at (as opposed to something to WATCH) can fill the whole of a scene. Taking the dream-sequences in "Lady Vengeance" as the biggest example, the lack of anything actually going ON in them is easily ignorable when the composition and beauty of the shot is noted. Sometimes it works really well, but sometimes it doesn't. There are just too many "doesn't"s in his recent works, and I find that it will probably be happening more and more as his style starts to develop.

I'm not going to complain, either, until he gives us a bad film. Up til now, he has not, so I can more than happily hope he keeps doing whatever he pleases.
Greg Follender #5: Greg Follender - added December 4, 2009 at 1:08am
I guess we'll just have to wait and see, Gino...

In the meantime, keep those great reviews a'comin'!
Chad #6: Chad - added December 30, 2009 at 6:18am
I thought it was a fairly decent movie, but nowhere near perfection. The pacing was the real problem here, as the running time clocks in at over two hours and... well, there's not two hours of material here. Tighter editing would have worked wonders here. Still, decent movie, so I think a 6.5/10 works.
Greg Follender #7: Greg Follender - added December 31, 2009 at 1:04am
I agree it was a bit overlong... but did that alone warrant a 6.5, Chad?
What else didn't you like about it?

I'm genuinely curious, you see... I like the Director's work so much that perhaps I might have missed something in my fanboy stupor;)
Chad #8: Chad - added December 31, 2009 at 9:04am
I'm a huge fan of Park as well, so I wasn't exactly going into this blind. I knew what I was in for, and I was expecting to be blown away.

The fact that the film is two hours long without two hours of material is the thing that hurt it so much in my eyes and the reason for the 6.5. There are scenes here that are completely irrelevant and would have been best viewed in a "deleted scenes" section of the disc, and some of the scenes that were necessary were just too padded (look at the sex scene - damned fine scene, required for the plot, but way too long). The ending of the film is yet another example: perfect way to end the story, wonderful idea, but padded to the point where what should have been an emotional scene becomes almost comical (I was waiting for the woman to break out an umbrella after her previous fifty ideas didn't pan out). Showing her fighting her fate? Acceptable. Showing her trying so many things? Meh.
Greg Follender #9: Greg Follender - added December 31, 2009 at 9:28am
Interesting... I interpreted that sort of almost comical desperation to be a bit of last minute humanization of a fairly monstrous character towards the end of the film.
I think that those last scenes gave an almost childish sadness to the proceedings that would have been simply maudlin otherwise.

I agree about the films length... that's for sure... but I think that the amazing moments of the film FAR outshone (is that even a word?) the more bloated passages and that your practically mediocre assessment of the film is still a bit jarring. I'd give the film over a 7 just for the incredibly creative and unromanticized approach to vampirism Park took... and that beautifully restrained initial building leaping scene! And in what other movie do we get to see the lead actor smash the nose of the female romantic interest?

But what do I know?
Anyway, I'm just glad you didn't hate it.
Lucid Dreams #10: Lucid Dreams - added June 15, 2010 at 2:20am
A bit slow on a few parts, but i enjoyed the majority of the film. 8/10
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