ThirstKorea, 2009
Original title: Bakjwi

Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Hae-sook
IMDB: 7.5

Director Park Chan-wook's previous film, Oldboy, was a huge fan favourite and helped cement his place as one of the most interesting Korean directors working today. And for me personally, that film remains one of my all-time favourite Korean movies.

Hearing that Thirst, his new film, had a vampiric theme subsequently had me in eager anticipation all year. What can one of the most exciting directors in Asia bring to the well-established, and frequently all too predictable, vampire genre?

As it turns out, Park has chosen not to mess with the established standards of vampire mythology - they still burn in sunlight and feast on the warm blood of humans - but aside from that, Thirst is a refreshingly original take on the genre.

Firstly, our vampiric protagonist Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) is also a devout priest with a penchant for self-flagellation. Having volunteered for a dangerous medical research position, he becomes infected with the lethal flesh-eating Emanuel virus.

For reasons that are a little unclear, he decides to drink the blood of another patient, which miraculously allows him to survive the infection. However the respite is temporary, and regular 'top-ups' are required. It seems that the blood that saved him had an unexpected side-effect - vampirism!

In any case, soon enough our main man, riddled with virus and vampire blood coursing through his veins, starts hallucinating. This adds a surrealistic touch to proceedings as the story starts its descent into feverishly twisted depths.

While grappling with his newfound vampire status and loss of faith, he begins an illicit affair with Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), the wife of one of his childhood friends, and its not long before they're getting it on at every opportunity. Seems poor Tae-ju has been deprived of lovin' for far too long!

Not to give too much away, the film then follows the duo's burgeoning relationship ... and in the time-honoured tradition of vampire movies, rest assured there's loads of sex and blood, and the odd bit of ultra-violence thrown in for good measure. Just what we here at Twisted Flicks are rather fond of!

As previously mentioned, the movie has quite a surreal feel to it, especially towards the end, and a twisted sense of absurdist humour is sprinkled throughout. In fact in the last half hour especially the movie is extremely funny, in no small part due to the fantastic acting of Kim Ok-bin who I'll definitely be watching out for in the future.

There are some great special effects, used intelligently and in context, and it must be noted that using wirework in a vampire movie may be one of the rare occasions in Asian films that absurd flying skills actually make sense.

As can be seen by the screencaps included below, Park doesn't let us down in the cinematography department either, with the visuals often being stunning and artfully composed. No doubt this is a master at work.

All this being said, I suspect that the audience who will enjoy this will be small. But those who might appreciate it know who you are, and its probably why you read this blog. For what its worth, the film took home a special jury prize at Cannes.

Twisted Flicks rating: 9/10

Screenshots (click to view)



Alex said...

Nice review! This was one of my favorite films of the year, but a lot of other reviews I've read weren't as positive, which is too bad. It's a unique and beautiful film, and I'm already looking forward to Park Chan-Wook's next!

Ventilation Shaft said...

Wow, man almost 4 months without a word. What happened, alien abduction or something? :)

I'm looking forward to the new reviews!


@Alex ... yeah this movie was something else huh? It must rate as one of the best vampire themed movies in recent times. I suspect my rating for it may rise after the next viewing.

@Ventilation Shaft ... haha, no abduction unfortunately. I took a month off work and went to Japan for a holiday. Then once I came back home it took me a while to catch back up on work etc. Back on deck now though, and got a bunch of reviews to write up shortly.

Alex said...

Hey, looks like you got a Kreativ Blog Award from a great authority (me)! Check it


Hey thanks Alex... wow, my first award, and I still haven't composed my acceptance speech :) Seriously though, thanks for your comments.

I just got around to checking out your blog for the first time today and liked what I saw - insightful and smart, and I agree with you totally on many of your reviews. Looking forward to reading more from you this year.

LuckyWanderBoy said...

After "oldboy" and "I'm a robot but..." I found this one a bit disappointing. Not bad though...


Yeah its quite slow in the beginning, but the last half is so deliriously awesome that the lengthy preamble is more than forgiven in my book.

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