Thirst (2009) comes to us from Chan-wook Park, the gifted director of the Vengeance trilogy (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance). It’s a vampire film, which I know doesn’t sound so appealing, given the oversaturation of vampire films being released lately, but don’t be quick to judgment. This is probably the best vampire film of the last few years, along with Let the Right One In and 30 Days of Night (Sadly, Twilight didn’t make the cut).
Park demonstrated an affinity for blending the macabre and humor in his earlier films, and this film is a similar blend of squirm-inducing violence and dark humor. Example: the story itself, which concerns a priest who is transformed into a vampire when he receives a blood transfusion. Come on, religious guilt and vampirism. That’s a gold mine. Now, the genre changing and blending doesn’t always work; there are times when the humor goes a little over the top, and the final scene, while powerful, tries too hard to bring in humor and slapstick where it’s not necessarily required.
There are some rather beautiful scenes, like when the priest demonstrates some of the potential perks of being a vampire to his girlfriend. Or the scenes between the priest and his confidant, an elderly priest. It’s beautifully shot by Chung-hoon Chung, who does wonders with nighttime lighting. The leads, Kang-ho Song and Ok-bin Kim, are wonderful. Kim in particular is uncanny and potently eerie as the human woman who takes a bit too much interest in vampirism. Song continues a winning streak of wonderful genre films, which include Memories of Murder and The Host.
Like May, this is one my favorite yet underappreciated horror films. The story is told in an unconventional manner and the viewer is consistently surprised. It’s kind of a shame more people haven’t seen this.