Chan-wook Park first came to my attention with his incredible, yet hard to watch Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) so I was very eager to see his take on vampires in Thirst.Thirst is not your ordinary vampire movie. I mean, there is blood drinking, feats of incredible strength, and a general aversion to sunlight but what it's really about is how doing a bad thing for what seems like a good reason is still a bad thing and, ultimately, very destructive.
I feel like your dead husband
is coming between us.
The story begins with Catholic priest Sang-hyeon enrolling in a trial to first be infected with the Emmanuel virus, something akin to Ebola, so that he can be a guinea pig for a new vaccine. After succumbing to the virus, he miraculously recovers after receiving a blood transfusion and he is revered by people as a living saint and spiritual healer. Unfortunately, the blood he was transfused with leaves him with a hunger he cannot quench normally and if he does not consume blood, he begins to develop the sores and boils associated with the virus. Being a man of God, he does this by siphoning blood from coma patients without killing them and is able to keep his secret until he begins to visit the family of Lady Ra, her son Kang-woo and his wife Tae-ju. Tae-ju is initially a sympathetic character since her mother-in-law and husband are both callous towards her feelings. Priest Sang-hyeon is attracted to Tae-ju and tries to stay true to his priestly vows while as his vampiric powers begin to manifest. But it is only a matter of time before Tae-ju and Sang-hyeon begin to have an affair and Tae-ju tells Sang-hyeon the Kang-woo is physically abusing her. They hatch a plan to kill Kang-woo and drown him while out night fishing, Sang-hyeon dragging Kang-woo to the bottom of the lake and laying a heavy rock on top of him to keep the body down. Because of her son's death, Lady Ra suffers a stroke and Sang-hyeon moves in with Tae-ju. Eventually, the guilt over the murder drives a wedge between Tae-ju and Sang-hyeon and Sang-hyeon strangles Tae-ju after she lets slip that Kang-woo never laid a finger on her. Distraught over what he has done, Sang-hyeon forces his own blood into Tae-ju's mouth reviving her from the dead and making her a vampire. Unfortunately, Tae-ju isn't as benevolent a vampire as Sang-hyeon and after she callously kills several people, they get in the car and Sang-hyeon drives them out to the shore to see the sun rise leading to the final five minutes which are both hilarious and sincere moments in the film.
The thing I love about this film are the levels upon which it works. First there is the overt vampire story which is original and interesting in its own way, and I love that it's accessible even though it is a culture alien to my own. Second there is the morality metaphor for the path to hell being paved with good intentions, and third there is the fight between the duality of man between his base desires and his noble intentions. Add in beautiful direction and absolutely fantastic performances and this movie is simply a must see.