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