Friday, 23 October 2009


It feels like there have been a bajillion vampire films released this year. You can’t walk into a cinema right now without some undead bloodsucker chomping on your jugular. Although it’s always been like that at the Shepherd’s Bush Vue.

I don’t care much for vampire films, which is why I was so surprised when Let The Right One In turned out to be such a moving, beautiful and breathtakingly great movie that it’s been spreading its batwings at the top of The Incredible Suit’s Best Films of 2009 since I saw it.

I was never going to see Twilight last year, or the 2009 sequel New Moon, because – like boy bands, The X Factor and alcopops - it’s aimed largely at teenage girls, of which I am not one. Lesbian Vampire Killers wasn’t on my radar because it starred the unfunniest double act since Les Dennis and Dustin Gee, and appeared to have been made about 15 years too late to catch the ‘readers of Loaded magazine’ market it was intended for.

However I was always going to watch Thirst, the new film from South Korea’s Park Chan-wook, because I would watch anything that he made – despite the fact that he’s South Korea’s answer to Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam; someone who makes exceptionally extraordinary-looking films, only a tiny amount of which are actually any good.

Park’s Sympathy For Mr Vengeance and Oldboy are two of the most goggle-bogglingly great films made ever, never mind in South Korea; the third film in that trilogy – Lady Vengeance – was fine but not as good as its predecessors, and Park’s other films (JSA, I’m A Cyborg) looked incredible but failed to deliver as a complete product.

Sadly much the same can be said for Thirst, the story of a priest who becomes infected with vampire blood, making him unspeakably horny for a childhood friend, and has to balance his newly acquired bloodlust with his raging libido and his desire not to kill anyone in order to survive if he can help it. Needless to say it doesn’t work out all that well, and by the end there’s more claret been spilled than at a gathering of nervous Mouton Rothschild lovers.

Thirst features some typically (for Park Chan-wook) blackly comic sequences and dazzling camerawork, and its two leads, Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-vin, are excellent. The final scene, featuring a clifftop, a car boot and two bickering vampires is simultaneously hilarious and touching, and visually stunning. However the whole story lurches uncomfortably from scene to scene, with little in the way of a narrative core to hold on to, so you’re never really sure what the aim is for these characters or why you should care.

That said, Thirst isn’t terrible, and there’s enough there for fans of Park Chan-wook, Korean cinema or vampire films. I’ll still queue up for Park’s next film, whatever it is; I just hope it’s better than Thirst, because if not, there will be blood.

Thanks to Ultraculture for the graph idea which I pretty much pinched wholesale there.

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