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3.7 out of 5 stars31
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 7 September 2015
We’re in serious danger of finally killing off the vampire, having reduced it first to fight fodder for leather-clad super models, and then to a glittery masturbation aid for sullen teenagers. If Dracula arose from the crypt today he’d last about two seconds before somebody kicked his head off with a stiletto or bored him to ashes with sh*tty dialogue. Now more than ever it’s time to remember that the vampire, when done right, is the greatest of movie monsters, and in this spirit we turn to Thirst (or Bakjwi); a fascinating vampire tale told by legendary director Park Chan-wook, which asks the simple question— can you continue to lead a moral existence while thirsting for human blood?

The answer, as protagonist Sang-Hyun discovers, is most emphatically no. A noble priest who contracts vampirism from a blood transfusion, Sang-Hyun quickly finds he must feed on human blood or suffer a slow and painful death. As he finds himself ever stretching his moral boundaries to quench his thirst, he soon discovers that he is less able dismiss his inner self-doubt. It’s not long before he embarks on an affair with Tae-Ju— desperate, passionate, and the wife of his jovial childhood friend, Kang-woo.

Here the inevitable rule of noir comes into play, and before you know it the former priest and his femme fatale are locked in a downward spiral of their own making, first leading to the murder of Kang-woo and eventually to the mercy-killing a Tae-ju gone mad with grief. The wonderful thing about Park Chan-wook though is that when he wants to explore a theme, he rarely stops until he reaches the bottom— and a lonely Sang-Hyun revives Tae-ju as a vampire, unleashing a further, much less controllable evil on the world.

Thematically, Thirst is spot on. I’ve always been intrigued by Vampire movies that explore the process of suddenly being physically compelled to prey on the denizens of your former life— exploring both the alien mindset of a serial killer and the tragic isolation of the physically or mentally ill. Sang-Hyun does his best to lead a normal life, trying to sate his blood desire without hurting anyone— such as visiting coma patients and offering a unique right-to-die service for suicides— but the stress of the lifestyle quickly takes its toll, robbing Sang-Hyun of his resolve, his identity and his Catholic faith. As always, a weak man falling into the arms of a driven woman does not work out well in movies, and when Sang-Hyun revives Tae-ju as a vampire, he quickly realises his mistake as she adapts to the life of the night with savage vigour. In his last moral act, he resolves to destroy the both of them.

The charm of Thirst isn’t just in its fresh yet respectful take on vampirism, but in the inimitable directorial style of Park Chan-wook. Filming with what feels like an almost sociopathic stoicism, the sex, violence and madness that crop up in the movie are presented so matter of factly that you can’t help but feel like co-conspirer in Sang-Hyun’s misadventures. With the tale unfolding in a slow, maudlin sort of way, the instances of horror are made that much more uncomfortable and shocking, and the characters are so well realised that the whole movie has an eerie sort of plausibility to it.

Like most of Park Chan-Wook’s movies, Thirst is a beautifully presented film, filmed with an almost analytic detachment, and there are few more interesting perspectives on the vampire mythos. I urge you to give it a watch.
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on 16 May 2015
A beloved and devoted priest from a small town volunteers for a medical experiment which fails and turns him into a vampire.

Physical and psychological changes lead to his affair with a wife of his childhood friend who is repressed and tired of her mundane life.

The one-time priest falls deeper in despair and depravity. As things turns for worse, he struggles to maintain whats left of his humanity...

The vampire movie should have really been extinct now thanks to the poor efforts of the Twilight and Underworld franchises, but the director injects new blood into the story of the vampire, by putting simple things into perspective.

These vampires have reflections, and no fangs, but still feed and die the same. Making the main protagonist a priest really opens up a can of worms for questioning ones acts. The priest primarily feeds to make himself better, but when he meets his friends unfulfilled wife, carnal instincts set in.

What makes this film intensely erotic is that when the couple consent for the first time, they are experiencing something they have never before, forbidden passion, which makes the scenario all that more sensual.

Chan-Wook adds some much needed humour into the film, but this is only realised in the final third of the movie. We see the daughter lift her mother in the chair in front of everyone, and when she realises her own strength, just puts the chair down and carry on. Hilarious.

and the final act wouldn't be out of place in a carry on film, or even the three Stooges as the couple fight for survival/death respectively.

CGI is subtle and fantastic, and the scenes with them jumping from building to building is so graceful, you could be watching ballet.

The vampire genre feels fresh and vibrant after this, but more importantly, has the eroticism and intensity that most vampire films are missing these days. It's violent, but from the director in question, i wouldn't expect anything different.

A really interesting story, with fantastic characters and beautiful cinematography.
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I watch few Korean films and my comments should be taken in that light. Thirst is a vampire film, but it is also about religion, depravity, conscience and morality. Opening with that popular device - a virus - it travels through a family that have escaped from a Zola novel, much murder, to the final very satisfying denouement. I felt it took far too long to do so, but that may simply be my western "clock". Although it was transparently not True Blood In Seoul it stuck to most of the vampire genre strengths (though Korean vampires can be seen in mirrors) while adding a very Catholic element. It is as if Graham Greene had been asked to rewrite Interview With A Vampire.
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VINE VOICEon 30 December 2009
Ah, Chan Park-Wook, the *primus inter pares* of South Korean film, the man behind the "Vengeance" trilogy and the legendary "Oldboy" is not a man to rest on his laurels (two Roman references - I'll stop now) after such an illustrious slew of films. Oh no. After the slightly disappointing "I'm a Cyborg - And That's OK" he's gone straight for the jugular (sorry) with this take on Vampire mythology. And it's not a film to do things by halves either.

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a christian priest who wishes to uphold his strict morality and respect for human life by volunteering for research project that's attempting to destroy a lethal virus that's threatening civilisation as we know it - However, the virus contained in the vaccine starts to have untold consequences for his health.... Hence, he receives a blood transfusion. By some strange quirk of fate (very strange), he receives vampire blood by mistake. soon Sang-hyun is showing the usual bloodsucker symptoms which, let's face it, isn't something a pious priest should have to face. And as luck will have it a friend's spouse (Kim Ok-vin) approaches him for help in escaping her sorry facade of a life. Sensual experiences follow, experiences that may just launch him headlong into sin and shatter his faith. Yes, I'm not one to use the old "it's such-and-such meets such-and-such" chestnut when trying to sum up a film, but it's "Nosferatu" meets "Nine-And-A-Half Weeks" and by golly does it whip up a Kaleidoscope of tension. And, why do women find vampires so sexy? (answers please on a postcard).

The film has received praise across the board from critics, and it damn-well deserves it too. And hats off to Pallisades Tartan for picking it up for distribution, as before this film it's been old Tartan re-releases (which believe me I would never, ever criticise). Watch now, and shun that successful franchise set in Oregon or wherever with trees and stuff. Glittery types be damned.
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on 17 January 2011
This is a very good movie from an excellent director. The storyline reminded me strongly of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin - except there were no vampires in Zola's story as I recall! However the story of illicit love between a priest and a woman who is unhappily married to a rather simple and crass man and also shackled to a harridan of a mother-in-law goes down the same path - lust, love, conspiracy, murder and guilt. In Therese Raquin, the lovers drown the unfortunate husband and here too a similar path is followed. Unhappiness, hatred and despair follow. This tale of domestic misery is wrapped in an occult story of accidental vampirism (the priest takes part in a clinical trial which infects him with the need to feed on human blood. without giving away too much the vampirism escalates and his wife becomes infected too - she however feels no sense of guilt regarding this and positively embraces her new found freedom. For both of them however, the "ghost" of the murdered husband and the beady eye of his stroke ridden mother remain a very disturbing presence. Conscience and guilt destroy the relationship and the priest resolves the situation in a way that is both shocking and moving - redemption of a kind. Korea produces brilliant and thought provoking movies - even when wrapped up in what is becoming a rather hackneyed vehicle for expressing ideas of alienation and illicit love.
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on 5 July 2010
If you love Chan-wook Park, you know what to expect. His films are brutal, poetic, tragic, and artistic, with splashes of very grim humor. THIRST is clearly Park's style, and I loved every second of it, from the cinematography (every shot is gorgeous and creative) to the story, which blends Shakespearean tragedy, murderous love, Gothic horror, and layered character drama. The characters are complex and there is plenty of moral ambiguity to go around. The story was about a devoted priest from a small town who volunteers for a medical experiment which fails and turns him into a vampire. Physical and psychological changes lead to his affair with a wife of his childhood friend who is repressed and tired of her mundane life. The one-time priest falls deeper in despair and depravity. As things turn for worse, he struggles to maintain what's left of his humanity.

Helmed by one of the internationally renowned Korean directors, Park Chan-wook (Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Thirst dissects the charms and woes of vampirism with the focus particularly on struggle with sins and deception. Right from the start, the film started questioning the priest's self righteous acts of volunteering for the deadly medical experiment. Was it really in good faith or was it selfish thought to fulfill a morbid vanity act? The movie then delves deeper into the human psyche. What if the society/community rules that bound us no longer existed? What if we succumb a little to our temptations and slowly become addicted to these sinful pleasures?

It went on questioning if you have discover the person you loved is flawed in his or her's own monstrous ways, will there be any changes to the love you had prior to the discovery. Those are hard questions that are slowly explored in the usual Park Chan-Wook's dark humor trademarks, coupled with visually stunning cinematography and great visuals. It's filled with stomach churning brutality and ghastliness that provokes the audience to ponder about the nastiness in human relationships. This film will definitely appeal to vampire fans as well as fans of Asian cinema, as it is one of the best ones out there along with Let The Right One In, I highly recommend this.
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on 27 January 2010
The world cinema section released some outstanding titles during the Noughties with Korea coming to the fore and putting the usual formulaic Hollywood nonsense to shame. For me, Park Chan-Wook was one of the main highlights of the past decade and, in my opinion, any comparisons drawn between his artistic qualities and that of the late, great Kubrick wouldn't be misplaced; in a sense that both directors share that same unique ability in capturing the best possible camera angles for shooting a memorable scene: the blood spewed across the floor in the overly fluorescent apartment leaps to mind.

Thirst, centres around a suicidal priest played by Kang-Ho Song (JSA, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance) who dies after volunteering to be part of a medical experiment but a blood transfusion brings him back to life as a vampire. Initially, because of his religious background, he is reluctant on killing people for his own gratification so he resorts to siphoning blood from a coma patient. The priest then covets a lonely, unhappily married woman (stellar debut from Kim Ok-Vin adding further testament to Park's directing skills) and a deeply passionate affair between the two lost souls ensues. It's not long before the adulterous wife has tricked the priest into killing her husband, thus changing the dynamics between the forbidden lovers and paving the way for some strong bloody violence and very steamy sex scenes that have been tastefully shot by the director.

The grossly underrated chameleon actor, Shin-Ha Kyun (Save The Green Planet), is cast in quite a small role as the ill-fated husband but adds a great deal of humour with his performance in this gothic tale: the threesome bedroom scene had me howling with laughter. The pacing at the beginning is slow; allowing the viewer to warm to the characters, but the momentum gradually builds and continues to do so until the final climax. The score has been created by the same musical team who worked on Oldboy and it's very similar in tone. Let The Right One In was an enjoyable flick that dealt with the innocents of youth, whereas this feature is on another level with a more adult theme running through its core. This is guaranteed to quench the Thirst of most genuine Park fans but will more than likely disappoint those expecting to be hammered with another Oldboy.
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on 31 January 2016
A nice little vampire film with some interesting takes on the genre. Good performances from the leads and nice to see a slightly different way we view a vampire. Enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2012
Park Chan-wook has set cinema alight in the past few years. Delighting many with his densely plotted and original work. "Thirst" beguiled the Cannes film jury (as did "Oldboy") and it's clear to see why they were so impressed. What plays out over its duration is a beautiful meditation on guilt and sin.

This is a movie imbued with a sense of Catholic guilt. The central character, a priest played by Song Kang-ho, begins to question his faith and decides to take part in a dangerous medical experiment. The result of this is that he takes on the qualities of a vampire. He meets with a former friend from school whose mother takes pity on him and offers him a place to stay. Living with the mother and her son is a girl they had taken in as child and now, married to the son, she acts as a servant/slave to the two. The priest is fascianted by her and with his new perceptions now attacted to her - a mortal sin for a priest.

So begins the journey of the two central characters. Although ostensibly this is a vampire movie it is imbued with a deep sense of Catholic guilt. The morality here is explored, identified, and destroyed. Chan-wook's film looks at the consquences of this. On one level the behaviour of the priest is shocking, but the film is much more conservative in its approach to its subject matter. When the girl, played enigmatically by Shin Ha-kyn, also crosses the moral divide she too is haunted by guilt, despite her lack of faith. Its sense of the consequence of transgression is clearly indicated.

The movie is beautifully shot and moves at a gentle pace throughout its two plus hours. This isn't one of those predictably violent vampire films although there is a fair ammount of blood shed in closing part of the film. For many horror fans this may feel too sedately paced and confusing. That's probably due to the vampiric plot being an opportunity to explore the key theme of actions having tragic, deep rooted consequences. Here the film's meditative pace and feel occupy exactly the right place. An unusal and atmospheric piece of work from a man who is still definately at the top of his game.
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on 6 July 2015
If blood vomit and pus are your thing then you'd like this film but I could not watch it to the end. Somehow I had imagined this to be like 'The Tin Drum', a bit surreal but well put together. The worst thing about it is the cartoonish quality of the over the top camera moves which are always tracking and craning. So I would describe this film as a cartoon with lots of blood, bodily violence, vomit and lots and lots of pus with some sickly sex scenes.
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