Director: Park Chan-Wook (2009)
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun
Not your typical vampire love story. But then, it's directed by Park Chan-wook of Oldboy and I'm a Cyborg but that's OK fame, so you already knew that. Priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) works at a hospital, providing ministry for dying patients. Dissatisfied with his lot in life, Sang-hun volunteers to be infected with a particularly nasty virus, in the hope of finding a cure. No such luck. He dies, along with 500 other infected unfortunates. Bad times.
But death is not to be. Sang-hyun recieves a blood transfusion which apparently cures his particular dose of death. What looks like a miracle turns out to be something entirely different. See, Sang-hyun becomes a vampire. Has to drink blood on a regular basis, otherwise he'll revert to his messy state of dead. More bad times.
Whilst dealing with his vampirism, Sang-hyun happens across childhood crush Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin); now married to a cancer suffering hypochondriac and suffering under the dictatorship of Lady Ra. Because alienated weird types are always attracted to vampires, Tae-ju falls for Sang-hyun and they begin a secret romance. Alas, a vampire's lot in
life death is never a happy one, and things quickly snowball out of control, ending in much violence, bloodshed and nastiness. Bad times.
Just when you'd thought the vampire myth had nothing left to offer, something always comes along to prove you wrong. For every Twi-shite, there's a Let the Right one In; for every Vampire Diaries, there's a Being Human. The vampire myth is a resilient one, constant in its refusal to bow down against the shit that besmirches its name. There are a lot of vampire romances about at the moment, but few of them work as well as Thirst.
For one, it's not afraid to be kinky. Thirst boasts some of the steamiest vamp action I've seen in a long time (well, since the graveyard sex scenes in True Blood, anyway). There's lots of sex in the first half of the movie, and it's surprisingly hot and sweaty stuff. Mind you, the poster does have a fella with some sexy lady-legs wrapped around his neck, so that should clue you in a bit. But there's a sweet side to things too. It's a lovely little romance, not hampered by shitty dialogue, heart-throb actors or religious agenda. It's properly funny. It's violent. It's silly. It's spooky. Thirst is what it is. And what Thirst is, mostly, is bloody good.
It's believable stuff (well, as believable as a film about vampires ever could be, I suppose). Whereas there's a temptation to romanticise this sort of affair, Thirst shows the fucked up side of vampire love. Things get bitter and vicious, which is all very recognizeable if you've ever had a relationship at any point, ever. Maybe they should have called this 500 (nights of vampirism), since it's as much about the degredation of a relationship as it is vampirism. Having said that, there's a lovely lack of whingeing too. Whiny immortals have become commonplace, but Sang-hyun largely gets on with things. You can see his distaste with the whole thing - and he shoulders a coffinload of guilt later on - but there's a refreshing lack of proper moping to his movements. Indeed, you actually see him taking proper steps to stop things before they get any worse.
Despite the fierce originality to this and the rest of Chan-wook's films, Thirst isn't afraid to stick very closely to the already established vampire mythos. His bloodsuckers are properly dead, allergic to sunlight, sleep in coffins and have all the superhuman abilities of a Blade character. And these jumping across rooftops and big vampy fight scenes fit quite well with the spookier, more subtle stuff, ensuring Thirst never gets boring, no matter how long it goes on.
And yes, it is a bit on the long side. But there are enough beats to the story to keep up the momentum and stop lethargy from setting in too much. The final scenes are amongst the best I've ever seen, both in terms of action (it's violent, funny and slapsticky stuff) and proper, stick-in-yer-throat emotion. Thirst comes highly recommended, even if you think you've had your fill of modern vampire flicks. Good times.