Return of Project Horror, Day 5: Thirst


I'm trying an experiment tonight, and inviting in my first ever guest blogger!  You all know that I love watching movies.  Unfortunately, with Courtney working nights, I usually watch them alone.  That's fine, I don't mind it, but a big part of the joy of movies is sharing what you think about them.  I mean, that's why you're reading this, right?

My guest tonight is my good friend Will, who has been mentioned here a few times before, most notably in last year's review of BubbaHo-Tep, when I pointed out that he is Bruce Campbell's doppelgänger.  Here's a refresher.
To be fair, though, I must also point out that since this picture was taken, Will has lost a lot of weight, and looks much more like Evil Dead Bruce Campbell than like Burn Notice Bruce Campbell.  He has his own blog, which I linked to in his name above, but here's another link to Netflog, just in case you missed the first one.

Everybody please welcome Will!  Now, he actually lives in Arizona, which still makes it impossible to watch the movie together, but we're going to cobble this together the best we can.  For ease of reading, my portion will remain in manly black type.  Will's contributions will be in blue.


I don’t get it. Ordinarily a fan of Chan-wook Park, I figured I’d really enjoy Thirst. Then I decided to test the statement “ordinarily a fan” and realized, hmph, the only Park I’ve seen before is the revenge fantasy Oldboy, which, granted, features a bananas claw-hammer brawl down a tight hallway that has stuck with me these 8 years later.
 I have to admit, I did the same thing yesterday with del Toro.  I know that like Park, he's a director with a bunch of geek cred, but as I looked at his filmography, I realized the only things I'd seen before yesterday were the Hellboy movies.  Anyway, I had the same experience you did today.  I assumed a much better track record for Park than I should have on the basis of Oldboy. 

(I also think the hammer scene was quoted in the underrated, underseen Repo Men (Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker). Didn’t see it? Like sci-fi? Check it out.)
Stay on topic, Will.  If I let you go, you're just going to end up back on The Thing again, and then there'll be no getting you back.

So Thirst is a drama about the perils of missionary-ism (both proselytism and position), faith, adultery and guilt. And it happens to feature a vampire priest. That the central character is a vampire is merely incidental to the action and allows for a series of exciting visual moments, e.g., crouching tiger-style wirework, various feats of strength and some blood drinking that reads more like fetishism than the care and feeding of vampires we’ve grown used to, but the bloodsucking figure seems more baldly allegorical than usual here.  Maybe this is because the character types are exaggerated and foreign to us, the clownish idiot husband, or that some of the performances have the strain and screech of Kabuki, the distraught mother in law, and that the only actors playing the reality are the vampire (the cook, the thief, his wife) and his lover.
I think you got more out of this one than I did, even though it sound like we both got very little out of it.  Will already nailed down most of the plot points, but basically you have a priest who goes to work at a medical mission and becomes the only survivor of a horrible virus.  When he returns home to Korea, he is revered by people as a saint, and is frequently asked for prayers over sick people.  One person who requests prayers is the mother of an old friend, who invites the priest to their home once her son has recovered.  He begins an affair with the friend's stepsister/wife.  And, just like our protagonist yesterday, he notices that he has become sensitive to sunlight and thirsty for blood, an itch he scratches by sneaking small amounts from the patients he cares for in the hospital.

As the affair grows more intense, the priest drifts farther from his convictions, eventually kills the woman's husband, and leaves the priesthood, so that he can pursue their relationship.  They both find that their relationship was more exciting and interesting when it was an affair, and matters become even worse when he turns her into a vampire, only to find that she is much more reckless and ruthless than he is, and doesn't share any of his compunctions about killing.

Although I saw some of the same things in it that you did, I don't ultimately see it as a warning on proselytism, but more as a statement on the fluidity of belief.  The priest recognizes this when he pays his last visit to the invalids' camp, in order to dissuade their belief in him.  I do agree that it just didn't work all that well, though.  I liked the priest character, and could have enjoyed this movie if it had just been about him dealing with his moral conflict.  The scene where he helps a woman commit suicide was the best in the movie!  But the ridiculous husband, the shrill female love interest, and the overbearing mother-in-law did nothing but set my teeth on edge.

I give Thirst two fangs down and suggest that it might be a more appropriate offering during Project Valentine II. I conceded to The Warden (played here by Danny) that, no, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) does not technically feature any vampires. But a fluid-slurping, shape-shifting, identity-copying monster with big fangs that hides in plain sight is more a vampire than an infantilized, lightpole-punching, “the hills are alive with the sound of the telltale heart at the bottom of the lake,” nancypants (not that those are bad) priest who sneaks into coma wards to suck patients’ IV tubes…ok, when I put it that way it sounds kind of awesome. But with a running time of 2:13, no thank you. I’m MacReady for my next assignment.
I warned you - no The Thing!  Let's not have this talk again.  You know what would be awesome, though?  Mashup Oldboy and Thirst - lock a vampire in a room for 15 years, only serve him blood from a specific blood bank, and then release him to work out his vengeance.

Like Will, I also give this one two fangs out of five.  We'll see Will again in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, thanks for joining me tonight, man!
TOMORROW: The beginning of the slasher movies block with Maniac!  I will be joined in my living room by my friend Clay, who is a big ol' scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies.  (available on Netflix instant streaming)


Danny Holwerda said...

Will REALLY likes "The Thing." He'll inject it into any conversation, including ones about international relations. I am not kidding.

Steve Myles said...

Sounds like an interesting film. Also, "The Thing" is great (but you're right, not a vampire film).

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