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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Vampire priests have all the fun (and the guilt) in Park Chan-wook’s Thirst


Illustration for article titled Vampire priests have all the fun (and the guilt) in Park Chan-wook’s Thirst
Screenshot: Thirst

Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: Morbius has been pushed back to 2021, but you don’t have to wait that long to check out these other vampire chronicles and bloodsucker tales.

Thirst (2009)

As resolutely Catholic a vampire movie as has ever been committed to film, Park Chan-wook’s Thirst drinks deep of the draft of repression—and then argues that it’s still probably a better option than the alternative, at least where blood-drinking monsters are concerned. After all, mild-mannered priest Sang-hyun (Parasite’s Song Kang-ho) might not have been especially happy before receiving the blood transfusion that turns him into a supernaturally powerful creature of the night. (He seems downright eager to martyr himself in the name of medical science, actually, volunteering for an experimental trial that everyone involved seems certain will end in his death.) But at least he wasn’t spending his nights courting would-be suicides for their last drops of blood, or sawing people’s feet off in his bathtub, in order to get his fix.

A darkly comic rejoinder to the Buffy-and-Twilight set’s notion of the “good vampire,” Park’s movie is a slow deconstruction of every justification its protagonist puts forward in service of sating his undead hungers. No matter how Sang-hyun tries to spin it—drinking from “generous” coma victims, seeking frequent religious absolution for his transgressions, and trying like hell not to actually kill anybody—there really is no ethical consumption of other people under vampirism, it seems. Especially not after a chance encounter with childhood friend Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun)—and even more especially with Kang-woo’s constantly harangued and miserable wife Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin)—awakens all the carnal sensations Sang-hyun’s spent his entire pre-death life trying to self-flagellate away.

Thirst is a bit too slow for its own good, with the mutual sexual awakening of Sang-hyun and Tae-ju eating up large (and graphic!) percentages of its running time. But the director who crafted Oldboy’s famed hallway sequence hadn’t lost his taste for a perfectly composed and shocking image, either, whether it’s the reveal of Sang-hyun drinking from his “donor”’s IVs like a Krazy Straw full of claret or the specter of shared guilt literally coming between two lovers in the middle of the act. In a film about the dangers of keeping your impulses in check, Park rarely follows suit, and Thirst is deeply satisfying for his indulgence.

Availability: Thirst is available to rent or purchase from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Microsoft, Fandango, DirectTV, and VUDU.