Thirst 2009 ★★★★

"I don't kill anyone, you know. Hoy-sung... He loved helping the hungry. He'd offer me his blood if he wasn't in a coma."
-Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song)

Chan-wook Park proves once again why he’s the hottest director out of Asia right now. His latest feature outing follows a priest, whom after a failed medical experiment, is stricken with vampirism. Although he does not replicate the excellence of his Vengeance trilogy, he does manage to weave one of the most charming vampire romances of all time.

Park again extracts phenomenal performances from his cast. Kang-ho Song is wonderful as conflicted priest Sang-hyeon. His is a character of intelligent design-a realistic, flawed being whom is tortured by relatable, human emotions. Guilt, lust, love, all are manifest in Thirst’s multi-layered protagonist. Frequent Park collaborators Ha-kyun Shin and Dal-su Oh also deliver noteworthy performances, as they did for their parts in the trilogy.

Surprisingly, though, it is newcomer Ok-bin Kim whom provides the standout role. She has the remarkable talent of switching effortlessly from vulnerable innocent to scheming devil. For me personally, it was reminiscent of those femme fatale types of the ‘50’s Noir scene, the likes of Barbara Stanwick in Double Indemnity.
Every character is incredibly well-written; they are complex, believable characters, with real motives and feelings. Not one can be classified as good or bad, for that is too black and white. These are morally ambiguous people - but undeniably human, and Park extracts Sympathy for all.

As seems to be a staple of modern Asian cinema, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, whilst the soundtrack is as charming as Oldboy’s was. The humour is dark and morbid, but it works very well. It is obviously a labour of love, with each area tweaked to perfection, making the film breath-taking in its entirety.

The films biggest shortcoming is its runtime; it possesses neither the pace nor action to warrant the two hours and twenty minutes it plays out for. Realistically if such a duration is to work, you need a certain level of stimulation to keep it going.

I feel I must point out, however, that Thirst is not really a horror film. Rather, it is a lyrical tale in the vein of Let the Right One In, a wonderful story of longing, lust and love.
Those going in expecting a horror film will be disappointed. Those expecting another Chan-wook Park masterpiece will not.

VERDICT; Much like his Vengeance trilogy, Park’s latest feature film is brutal, tragic and above all, poetically beautiful. Asian cinema at its most stunning, its most absurd and its most exquisite.
4/5 or 8/10

21 Comments

  • @Josh I thought the remake was good as far as remakes go, but LTROI is definitely better. I don't think Thirst got enough buzz to get remade, but you never know.

  • @Ron Yes by comparison to many other remakes, it was definitely one of the better ones. Chloe Moretz is an excellent young talent and should have a good career ahead.
    I hope you're right there, though everything seems to be getting the remake treatment these days.

  • @Josh I agree with you on Chloe Moretz. I don't have as big a problem with remakes as some people do. I actually don't mind if a film is remade as long as it's in good hands, and ends up being good. The problem is that's rarely the case so since their's so many bad remakes out there people just tend to hate the idea of a remake. The positive thing about remakes is they bring the story to a broader audience which is a good thing. I think it's tough for a filmmaker who decides to do remake because you wanna capture what was good about the original, but you also want to bring something new to the table so the remake doesn't feel unnecessary. Obviously a lot of remakes when it comes to foreign films could be avoided if more people would read subtitles, but I don't think that'll ever happen.

  • @Ron Spot on there. Remakes have earned a bad reputation, because quite a number have been awful. I too like to hold hope that they will be worthy reimaginings.
    Many remakes have been almost as good the original, like Dawn of the Dead or the Ring (In my opinion, of course). Hell, even the Thing is a remake, and thats one of the best horror films of all time!
    Agree with that. A remake should capture the essence of the original, but always strive to add something or improve. That's one reason Psycho remake is so hated, it just was not needed.

  • @Josh I've liked Dawn of the Dead, The Ring, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo slightly better than the original. It's definitely rare when that happens. The Psycho remake definitely was not needed. I'm interested to see what Spike Lee does with Oldboy because I love that film. He's hit or miss as a director so he could do a decent job or it could be pure shit. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

  • @Ron I am also very intrigued (and scared) to see his take on Oldboy. He is all over the place, so i'm hoping this is more like 25th Hour level of quality.
    Josh Brolin certainly looks the part, and he is talented, but could he pull that role off? i'm not so sure. I'm almost certain its impossible for him to match Min-sik Choi's performance. I'm hoping Elizabeth Olsen is in it, especially after Martha Marcy, though it seems to just be rumours at the moment. As for Sharlto Copley as the villain, he's a great actor, but i'm not sure he's strong enough.

  • @Josh If it ends up being 25th Hour quality it'll be very good. I guess we can only wait and see. The biggest issue in my opinion is how well the story will translate, and how much will he have to change for it to work for an English speaking audience.

  • @Ron yep. Some scenes are very much a cultural thing, i think, and probably won't work as well in another context. I really hope they don't a) tone down the violence or b) change that amazing ending.
    The score and soundtrack for Oldboy were beautiful as well, i wonder if they'll get Park and the composer's permission to use the stuff he did.

  • @Josh if they change the ending or tone down the violence I'd be furious! It be nice if they could use the original score, but I'd say it's highly unlikely they will. The cultural differences alone will make it quite a bit different than the original so it's definitely intriguing to find out how it turns out.

  • That quote at the beginning made me laugh so much. The first scene where the ailing person describes his past was so moving. And the same story is re narrated here but the scene it made me laugh. Absolute genius. Nice review Josh.

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