Kino Lorber brings this Korean horror back to Blu-ray
Park Chan-wook is perhaps the preeminent Korean filmmaker of our age, with a legacy built on his Vengeance trilogy, furthered by his foray into the English language with Stoker, and cemented by the utterly delectable The Handmaiden. One entry to his filmography that gets less attention is Thirst, a film that takes his exploration of love, revenge, and violence, and embeds them in vampire legend.
From Chan-wook Park, the director of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Stoker, comes a shockingly original vampire story with a chilling, erotic style. A blood transfusion saves the life of a priest (Kang-ho Song, Memories of Murder, The Host, Snowpiercer), but also transforms him into a vampire. He struggles to control his insatiable thirst for blood until a love affair unleashes his darkest desires in deadly new ways. Daring and operatic, Thirst is a truly wicked love story that takes classic vampire lore to twisted new heights.
It’s a further test of his already fragile faith for young priest Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) when a vaccine trial goes wrong and an blood transfusion turns him into a vampire. Led by his moral compass, he takes position in a hospital where he’s able to feed off terminally ill patients. He’s tempted further still when he encounters an old friend (Shin Ha-kyun) and becomes infatuated with his wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), the two embarking on an affair shortly after. Becoming aware of his condition, the woman asks Sang-hyeon to share his gift with her, a woman who embraces the darkness with a very different mindset to his. Many films have used vampirism to explore various social themes, and Park wastes no time in putting his own stamp on this sub-genre, unleashing chaos as this blood lust gets out of control.
Thirst is a fusion of several genres under a horror umbrella: romance, drama, and, as you’d expect from Park, delicious dark comedy that often verges on the farcical. All are combined with a genuine eroticism. The main relationship is born out of love and lust, each living with ongoing temptation. He is tinged with religion and morals; she gives in to more predatory instincts. Their different views on how to behave at the top of the food chain spark a divide. It’s visceral and affecting at times, aided by some standout performances from Kim and Shin, showing remarkable shifts in these characters as they go through their various transformations and endure the fallout of their actions. Thirst feels a little less impactful than Park’s other features, with a cooler, more distant vibe from the story. An overstuffed but stark tale, it has moments where shifts in genre, tone, and pacing hamper it at times, and yet you remain under its thrall thanks to the lead performances, some exquisite direction, and haunting cinematography.
This new restoration and transfer impresses. The image looks very crisp and has sharp detail, with a cool palette showing off the often gorgeous cinematography. Blacks are deep, contrast impresses, with no artifacts or issues evident. Extra features are a little lacking, but the new commentary is a solid addition.
- NEW Audio Commentary by Entertainment Journalist and Author Bryan Reesman: The writer does a good job breaking down the various themes of the film while also dropping insights as to the production, Park’s fimography, and Korean cinema in general. A well researched and revealing commentary.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Kino Lorber trailer reel
The Bottom Line
While some may tag Thirst as lesser Park Chan-Wook, it’s still work that deserves your attention. Vampire lore proves a fertile ground for him to explore the themes and visuals with which he is most associated, revolving around this toxic love story. A distinct take on this horror sub-genre thanks to Park Chan-Wook’s unique vision.
Thirst is available from Kino Lorber now.