Available to rent on streaming platforms
“Thirst” has a been a film I’ve been extremely interested in watching for quite some time. It is directed by Park Chan-wook, who also directed Old Boy (2003) which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Before I get into my more detailed thoughts I will say that I really enjoyed this film. It is a South Korean horror/romance film revolving around a young priest who volunteers to get experimented on in the hopes to find a cure for a certain virus. The testing goes wrong and he receives a very cursed gift in return. The story is very interesting and it goes into very good themes like temptation and self interest. If this seems interesting to you, then I would highly recommend to watch it before reading the rest of the review.
Spoilers after this point
This might be one of the only cons I have about the movie and it might only be because I’ve only watched it once. So I’ll make it quick so I can get to all the good things I found with the film. It is a little over two hours long and I definitely started feeling it during the mid point of the movie. Personally I feel that being unable to predict exactly what’s going to happen next in a film makes the film feel like it goes on a lot longer since I am constantly in a weird state of suspense. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can get exhausting. Again, my opinion on this might change with a second viewing but as far as my first viewing goes, it felt very long and dragged out.
Although I mentioned before that some of the visual effects looked cheesy (the flying and jumping mostly), the practical effects were very well done. Something that added a lot to Park Chan-wook’s “Old Boy” was that a lot of the punishments and violence felt so real and this film is no different. The scenes where Sang-hyun is throwing up, the fish hook scene, the leg stabbing, the killings, everything just looked so real and disturbing. There are a lot of horror movies that just have a bunch of gore a blood effects for the sake of shock value but any time there was ever a violent scene in this movie it felt so purposeful to the tone the film is trying to present. It takes a lot to make me flinch and when the fish hook scene got a reaction out of me I knew that the practical effects were doing their job.
The actors were great! Something I really enjoy about this director is that he knows how to work with these actors to get exactly what he wants from them. Kang-ho Song has become one of my favorite actors at this point after everything I’ve seen him in. He brings this charismatic energy and is honestly so hard to hate even though he does some very messed up things in this movie. There are small mannerisms that he does through out the movie that just add so much character to him and the chemistry that him and the lead actress had seemed so real even though their relationship was very unusual to begin with. I hadn’t seen a movie with the lead actress, Ok-bin Kim, but she also did a great job. She was charming when she needed to be and did such a good job at being a somewhat manipulative antagonist(using antagonist in a very loose definition). The rest of the cast did a great job as well. The mother character actually had a lot of depth same with her son and even the worshipers were convincing.
Writing and Character Development
So I usually don’t really notice how well characters are written but it was something I had to point out for this movie. There is so much depth in each character and all of their actions are justified considering the kind of people they are. Usually when it comes to horror movies, the characters are written to act irrationally and that has always been such a pet peeve of mine. With the characters presented in this film, any time they ever act crazy or do something ridiculous the viewer can look at that character see the way they behave or the way they are developing and see a reasoning behind their actions. Even the side characters like the worshipers, the ex-police officer, and the old priest all have a good amount of depth with them regardless of their very little screen time.
On the surface Mrs. Ra can easily be seen as a stuck up rich woman who constantly feels entitled to boss around Tae-ju, but there are small moments where you can see that she genuinely cares for her and other characters. It is often said that a person’s true thoughts can be seen when they are drunk and this character is the definition of that. When she’s drunk she reveals a lot of her true feelings towards Tae-ju and even states that she will eventually give her the dress store. She is presented to be the person who acts the most on her own self interest, but by the end of the movie she ends up being the one who did the most for people and was the one who went through the most pain. I even started sympathizing with her a lot more than the main characters even though she was technically just an annoying drunk for the most part.
Even though the mother ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the movie, I think my overall favorite character was Tae-ju. She was such a complicated character through in through. She was extremely manipulative but at the same time I just sympathized with her so much. She was in a position where she was tired of her life with these people but also depended on them to survive. She wanted to break free from any type power over her and it made sense because all of her problems were solved by other people. Her husband helped her by asking his mother to house her, her husband’s mother gave her a job, and Sang-hyun gave her an escape from the frustrating husband and son. So it makes sense that throughout the movie she rebels against everyone, even the person who gave her all the love he thought she wanted. Tae-ju wasn’t just some one dimensional character that wanted to find love and break free from her suffering. She was greedy, manipulative, and was only ever concerned for her own self interests. Even with all those traits, she just wanted to be happy and do something for herself which makes her first death such a huge moment cause she finally accepts the fact that she had what she wanted all along. It was only after her husband’s death and seeing how things were starting to back fire that she started realizing that she really didn’t have it that bad. Of course she comes back to life and seems to have a completely different mindset but that’s mostly because she now has the power to do whatever she wants. In a way Tae-ju can be a symbol for man kind and how man will tend to only act out of self interest and greed. Of course this is only my interpretation of the character and even though I find her to be an awful person, she’s the most interesting to me.
Now we have our main character. The development for this character was actually quite interesting. He goes from being a very selfless priest who ends up eventually showing his true nature letting his temptations take control over him. A theory I had thought of was that he symbolized Jesus and him being released into the world after his procedure was basically Jesus coming to save the people (with a bit of a twist). Of course I wouldn’t make it a huge parallel but it makes sense. With the people throughout the movie treating him well and hoping he will save them it puts him in this savior role. People will try to do nice deeds or even mention good deeds they have done in the past while he is in the room. Adding on to the fact that people will only act out of their own self interest, even if they are good deeds. I was constantly reminded throughout the movie of the saying “the path to hell is paved with good intentions” and I think it really fits. The mother constantly needing to remind Sang-hyun about all the things she does for everyone, the ex-police officer getting Sang-hyun out of trouble, the man in a coma telling him about how he once gave cake to starving children, and even Sang-hyun believing that he is doing all of this work of God to be a good deed. Ironically out of all the characters I just mentioned, Sang-hyun is the only one who ended up being the most self interested of them all. He is in a constant state of denial, justifying all of his misdeeds and thinking that at the end of the day he is only doing what he does for the greater good. At the end of the day the only problems he actually solved, was the problems that he created on his own. Although Sang-hyun comes across as more kind and logical, he is no better than Tae-ju. In fact one of the reasons he could have such an attachment to Tae-ju could be because she is basically an uncensored version of him that gives in to temptation. While he punishes himself for even thinking about anything sexual, she welcomes it and basically forces Sang-hyun to give in to her. While he tries to keep his blood consumption to a minimum, she goes and kills when she’s thirsty even though she technically doesn’t need it. While he tries to only use his powers when it’s necessary, she uses them for basically everything. As the movie goes on, it is shown that he gives in to all of these desires ultimately making him the same person. There might be more observations that I get on this character after a second viewing but this is a good amount of what I got on the first viewing.
As mentioned before, the film seemed to drag quite a bit. The super human powers were also not great. Another thing I would like to add to this is that there are moments of this film that are not really made for an American audience. Certain sexual parts of the movie are a little too aggressive and could even be considered rape and inappropriate. However, these moments did have a purpose behind them so I don’t think the movie is trying to romanticize these actions even though it is somewhat a romance movie. Other than that I don’t really have many complaints about.
My Rating: 8/10 (Maybe a 9? Need to rewatch it)