I spotted the film Thirst on Netflix some time ago but never bothered renting it. The premise of a priest becoming a vampire sounded like it would be the story of a “good” vampire. I should have checked closer. After watching the excellent The Handmaiden, by South Korean director Chan-wook Park, I noticed that Thirst was one of his films. I knew right away that I had misjudged the movie as Park never does mainstream ideas. True to form, Thirst is not a typical vampire movie by any definition.
Thirst takes place in South Korea where a Catholic priest volunteers to take part in an experiment that may help to identify a cure for a mysterious illness. Naturally, the experiment fails and the priest is infected. He grows a bunch of really ugly boils on his face, spits up blood and seems to die. To everyone’s surprise he recovers and many people believe he can cure the sick. It doesn’t take long until the priest notices that he needs a steady supply of blood to keep the boils off his face. He raids the hospital blood bank and even sets up a counseling service for terminally ill patients so he can get their blood.
A woman spots the priest and begs him to cure her son. He visits their home and it turns out he knows the family from childhood. The son starts feeling better. The son has a wife who is treated as the family slave. The wife seduces the priest and the two of them engage in some wild sex. The wife tricks the priest into killing her husband. The mother has a stroke. The priest turns the wife into a vampire. Unfortunately, she enjoys killing and goes on a spree.
Yes, Thirst breaks all kinds of taboo’s regarding Catholic priests. I noticed that South Korean films are willing to explore topics that are typically off limits in American movies. Chan-wook Park excels at making movies that are interesting as well as provocative. I’d highly recommend watching either Lady Vengeance or Oldboy and I don’t mean the Spike Lee Version. Both films deal with extreme revenge and topics too hot for Hollywood. The Spike Lee Oldboy was a remake of Chan-wook Park’s film but Lee’s version was heavily toned down to be inoffensive. It’s rare that talent and a willingness to offend merge this gracefully.