The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Thirst

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Boldly erotic and playfully ponderous about sins of the flesh, Korean provocateur Park Chan-Wook’s “Thirst” ripped open its bodice, and various veins, with arterial sprays of carnage and carnality.

It also added a few major religious wrinkles to the vampire genre, usually the exclusive domain of satanic lapdogs.

Disillusioned priest Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song, of “The Host” and “Memories of Murder”) subjects himself to experimental vaccine treatment for a killer virus. After a blood transfusion saves him, Sang exhibits no symptoms, prompting some to dub him a healer

However, deprived of fresh blood, Sang’s viral symptoms return and, in time, Sang develops mood swings, supernatural strength and insatiable lust for Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin) — the abused wife of a crippled boyhood friend.

2009’s “Thirst” develops into a fanged fusion of “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” with explicit, sweaty, animalistic sex — kill scenes aren’t the only ones with wet, lapping sound effects — and its resultant manipulation toward murder.

Characters’ curiosities, pleasures and doubts keep these moments from feeling cheaply pornographic. Also, “Thirst’s” visual effects are as accomplished as any Hollywood production, and such polish on a film so clearly intended to unnerve is a morbid delight.

In its coda, “Thirst” tackled immortality’s drudgery and intimate betrayal, in which Sang regretted what he begat — after murder, what ravenous rapture remains for vampires?

Using savage wit, frank sexuality and grim lyricism, Park’s “Thirst” took up David Cronenberg’s mantle of desires invading the body and the mind. Long live the new flesh, indeed.

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3 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Thirst”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: I don't kill anyone, you know. Hoy-sung … he loved helping the hungry. #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes […]

  2. Nick Rogers says:

    Chris: I’d not seen the trailer prior to seeing the film. As a fan of Park Chan-Wook’s "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance," I took the first viewing on faith. Having watched it now, the trailer suggests something a little spookier, less gothic. I must cop to never having seen a "Twilight" film, so I can’t speak to that comparison. A couple of things: I’d never heard of Butoh, but after reading about it, my curiosity is piqued, like a taboo tangent of kabuki. And the drowned friend’s reappearance was simply a function of a couple literary references – Emile Zola’s "Therese Raquin" (on which "Thirst" is based) and, before that, Poe’s "The Telltale Heart." That didn’t bother me, as it seemed a good enough gateway to the madness and mundane existence that awaited them both after the thrilling rush of murder. Despite our disagreements on the movie, I appreciate the insights, and thanks for reading!

  3. I just watched this the other night and did not think it lived up to the trailer at all. The trailer truley freaked me out and I was expecting something creepily atune to Japanese Butoh dancing, but I didn’t feel the movie was that scarey. It seemed more akin to the vampire romance in Twilight than the creepiness of Gary Oldman as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It seemed to drag on and the whole sequence of re-appearances of his drowned friend seemed hokey and out of place for the rest of the film.