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Park Chan-wook's 2009 dark, erotic drama about a priest who becomes a vampire.

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South Korean Director Park Chan Wook's Take On Vampirism and The Seven Deadly Sins

  • Aug 2, 2009

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and recipient of critical and box-office acclaim in Asia, I jumped at the chance to see Park Chan Wook’s (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) latest film in a limited screening engagement in San Francisco. “THIRST” is a horror-satirical drama that explores the dark bestial side of humanity that is quite bizarre, even creepy on occasion, but never for one minute does the film relent in exploring the psyche that comes from alienation and loneliness, while becoming a slave of love and lust.
Sang Hyun (Song Kang-Ho, The Host, Memories of Murder) is a Catholic priest who volunteers in a local hospital. He provides last rites when necessary as well emotional support to its patients. Father Hyun is well-respected but he secretly suffers from emotions that can be defined as doubt, as he witnesses the dark world around him. Yet, he cherishes life, so he volunteers to take part in an experiment to eradicate the lethal EV virus, which is a threat to every Caucasian and Asian male. Father Hyun becomes stricken with the deadly virus and a blood transfusion is ordered up for him to save his life; in turn he becomes the first survivor of the deadly virus and some folks begin to regard him as a saint. But soon after his new lease on life, Hyun finds out that the blood he had received is infected and he is now living as a vampire and only the consumption of human blood can stave off the virus. 


                         scene at mahjong
Father Hyun struggles with his new found carnal desire for blood, and now also, his faith is put to the test when a childhood friend’s wife, Tae-Ju (sexy Kim Ok-Vin) comes to him to escape the life she knew all her life. Sang-Hyun is now overwhelmed with his desires of the flesh, as he plunges deep within the world of carnal and sensual desires that brings him in intimate terms with the Seven Deadly Sins…
Park Chan-Wook is one clever director in creating a new take on the vampire lore that blends the elements of the Seven Deadly Sins; Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Greed, Pride, Wrath and Envy. The vampirism as seen by Park’s rendition does have similarities to the established myths about vampires; vulnerability to sunlight, superhuman strength and speed, with a strong need for human blood--curiously this vampire does not grow fangs. The need for human blood is necessary to stave off the virus that somewhat touches on the sin of Gluttony. Lust and Envy is represented through Father Hyun’s desire for Kang-Woo’s (Shin Ha-Kyun) wife. Pride is represented when Hyun allows himself to be seen as a “Saint” at first. Sloth when he gains lesions and when he has to live in a dirty basement. Greed for life as he becomes afraid of dying and hungry for companionship. Wrath as Hyun is led to murder and he is brought face to face with the consequences of his actions. Vampirism becomes seen as the ultimate root of evil in the eyes of Father Hyun, but in some ironic manner, it all frees him of his inhibitions.

Song Kang-Ho is one VERY versatile actor. The man has played different roles throughout his career and he is clearly the right man for the role of Father Hyun. Hyun becomes a compelling character as we see him torn between the need to survive while avoiding the need to kill. “God feeds even the birds in the sky”, so Hyun resorts to slowly drinking the blood for comatose patients in the hospital (but never killing them) and people who wish to commit suicide. He also tries to overcome his lustful thoughts by hitting his thighs to overcome an erection. Curiously, Hyun becomes more aware of himself when he became a vampire; he realizes exactly who he is as he finds himself leaving the Order. Tae-Ju is one imbalanced woman who is manipulative of any situation. She seduces the kindly priest and manipulates him into believing that she is an abused wife; she is a woman torn between her reliance on her husband and the need to be free (as symbolized by her constant running at night). The sex scenes between Kang-Ho and Ok-Vin are quite erotically creepy at times, and very graphic; comparable to some Japanese pink films.


The film’s takes up a darkly satirical tone that becomes weirder and darker as the film progresses, yet, it also becomes funnier, more bizarre and grittier. There is one very bizarre scene when Hyun and Tae-ju is having sex, with a vision of Tae-ju’s dead husband sandwiched between them to bring the guilt of the murderous deed into exposition. While the first half of the film brings the weaknesses of the flesh with Hyun’s character, the second half progresses in bringing its consequences. Hyun is overly obsessed with sexy Tae-ju as he would do whatever it takes to be with her, even though he is aware that she is somewhat imbalanced, she is all he has and he turns her; much to his regret later. While Hyun would avoid killing a human for his need, Tae-ju becomes drunk with power, as she doesn’t mind killing at all. It is a testament to Park’s skills as director as the plot revolves around his characters; that somewhat touches upon certain definitions of being a monster as well as how you wield certain abilities, with the definition of being human coming full circle in the screenplay. I loved the way Father Hyun began to atone for his sins one by one. He also gets rid of his “Saintly” image by letting himself be caught with a woman that led to him becoming scorned. 

           Tae-ju and Hyun with vision?

It is hard for me to find flaws in the script, the metaphors and symbols are executed masterfully; even the supporting characters are significant vehicles in fleshing out the main protagonists. I suppose if one wanted to nit-pick, one may say that the paralysis of Tae-ju’s mother-in-law (played by Kim Hae-Sook) felt a little forced to generate some humor. Also, it can be argued that Tae-ju’s character isn’t as well written as Father Hyun’s. Still, these flaws are very minor as Park Chan-Wook successfully brings us to a world full of darkness and very GRIM humor with an atmosphere that resembles a fable and excellent cinematography to match. “Thirst” isn’t a comedy, but it is funny in a way that is both creepy and gloomy at the same time. The film also has a good share of blood and some gore, and yes, quite a good number of nudity and sex. (It is also the first mainstream Korean film that features male full frontal nudity)
“Thirst” is ultimately a success. Park Chan Wook was able to come up with a beautiful film that is full of elegy, while exploring the flaws of the human mind, that treats vampirism as a cause for the realization of one’s carnal desires while incorporating a Catholic overtone. I really loved the manner in which Park executed this original vampire film that BOLDLY dares to be different. It is not a horror film per se, but its horror elements come from the Fears of making the wrong decisions.
Definitely lyrical, darkly satirical, often Ironic and even erotically sexy, yet, so engagingly beautiful with compelling characters, Park Chan Wook’s “Thirst” is destined to attain a large cult following.
Highly Recommended! [5- Stars]
See this before Hollywood massacres it with a remake.

Ok-Vin and Kang-Ho

poster poster Korean teaser poster Kim Ok-Vin Song Kang-Ho Kim kim Ok-Vin scene scene Tae-ju and Hyun with vision? Ok-Vin and Kang-Ho scene scene at mahjong experiment

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May 27, 2011
Best review ever, lol! I loved the photos, William! I'm going to ask J to get us a copy of this one. Thanks for the recommendation!
May 27, 2011
Thank you, Adri. I think you'll like this one for sure.
June 03, 2011
You're always welcome. :D
August 20, 2010
whats up pakman, awesome review my friend. I rather liked this film but have been looking to make time to watch it a few more times just to really wrap my brain around it. What I love about this flick is how they try and bring such a myth to life and make it real. Loved the ending scenes as well
August 20, 2010
cool, bud. I think you may indeed appreciate this more once you see it again. It is somewhat cryptic at times and the climax does have a strong aura of symbolism about it. Welcome to the community, bud! Sorry I haven't dropped by too much yet, but I will--been a little distracted in my personal life lately.
September 05, 2010
no problem buddy I hope all is well and good luck Also I noticed u had a pic up there of the white room those 2 lil weirdos redecorated in the house, idk y but it was one of my favorite settings in the movie lol, very gorgeous movie and once again another great review dude
June 14, 2010
Yeah man another that I loved, great review.
August 20, 2010
Thanks, man.
December 23, 2009
Fab review as always. Thanks!
November 23, 2009
Superb review. I have seen a poster for this film at the indie theater, but no indication if and when it is coming near me. It is definitely one on my "to do" list. Now you have me, well, salivating for this one.
November 23, 2009
this was terrific! The U.S. DVD was released 11/17/09 by Focus pictures. Best $ 22 I've ever spent! It is also rentable via netflix! woo-hoo!
November 23, 2009
It is in my Netflix queue now. I think Netflix may actually be where I saw the poster. I knew I recognized the cover art.
November 19, 2009
Thirst (Bakjwi) is a fantastic movie from Park Chan-wook, one of my favourite film directors of all-time. I had the lucky chance of catching this on the big screen twice during its limited run here in Canada, and I also purchased the DVD release a couple days ago. Thirst will be very high on my list of favourite movies for 2009. You have done an excellent and very fitting review. Thought provoking and descriptive without giving too much away.
November 20, 2009
Thanks for the comment, man. Park is indeed one of my favorite directors. I've reviewed almost all his films save for one. This movie was really excellent, real hard to find flaws in it. I liked this as much as I did OLDBOY. If you like Park, have you seen Kim Ki-Duk's and Lee Chang-Dong's work? They're great too.
November 19, 2009
Just watched this one last nite if you haven't already guessed. Great film! Glad I invested the $20 & now I can watch this one anytime. One of the best modern films I've seen in months. Thumbs way up!!!
November 19, 2009
review, dude, review! I want some company...
November 19, 2009
More than likely, I will write something else up for this one other than the micro I submited awhile ago but I can't think of anything else to add to it. Your review sums it up as well dude. Your choices of pcitures, videos, & own writing style does this film poetic justice. ;-) But I will see what I can come up with....Ahhhhh!!
August 06, 2009
Whoa! Oh Boy. Can't wait. I found it interesting that at the end you said that the horror elements came from the fear of making the wrong decisions. Funny, because NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD just scared the bejesus out of me because i used to have nightmares exactly like that. Meaning I would be in some terrible horror movie situation facing death by really ghastly means and suddenly I would start splitting off into all these different characters; I'd be like Ben arguing one course of action and Harry arguing and another and Tom trying to keep the peace by saying well why don't we try Plan A and if that fails then try Plan B. Hell, I'd even be Barbara sitting catatonic over in the corner. Of course when I verbalize it the whole thing is very obvious; those nightmares were my subconscious' way of telling me that I needed to start being more decisive. Problems and decisions to me were like the zombies. One or two were no big deal but when you let them pile up they became overwhelming. As soon as I realized that, the film lost a lot of its edge and I never had another nightmare of that type again.
August 07, 2009
I'm impressed that you also caught that bit about making decisions in NOTLD, when I was a kid I thought my mom was special in catching it, everyone else in the family was scared out of their wits the first time. Those are some weird nightmares, and this film also deals with alienation and loneliness which may have contributed to the stupid decision making. There are scenes in the film that screams 'classic'. Park is one methodical director and I am sure that you will like its very dark humor and satire. I looked it up and the official U.S. release of "Thirst" is expected November of this year.
August 07, 2009
Great. Looking forward to that. I'll put it on the NetFlix list now so it'll pop up when its released.
September 30, 2009
Karen, THIRST is being released on 11/17/2009.
September 30, 2009
This is obviously the Asian version you're talikng about since the Australian film has been avilable for some time now. Putting it on the list Woop. So many of them don't some to NetFlix right away. Still waiting for IP MAN.
August 05, 2009
Awesome. You were right, I should've checked out the 5 star reviews first. But the other one had such a nice picture to go along with it and this one looks kind of sombre. ; ) Anyhow, will this be coming to DVD soon? And no worries, I won't support another bad American remake of an Asian horror film!
August 06, 2009
I am pretty sure the dvd will drop in 3-5 months. (maybe earlier) This is a great flick, Count, and this is essential to those who collect vampire films. I am getting the Korean release (import) so I can get all the great features and I think Focus pictures will be releasing it in U.S. shores in collaboration with CJ Entertainment.

Seen Park Chan Wook's Vengeance trilogy? I reviewed all three...but haven't posted the first film review here.
August 05, 2009
I've only seen Oldboy but I like Park Chan Wook's style so I'm definitely up for this one. Hope it trickles down to some more North American theatres soon.
August 06, 2009
This film blew me away. Black humor and some sexy scenes with a thematic screenplay. You will love this if you dug Oldboy.
August 06, 2009
Yeah, I'm pretty excited about this one. I will probably bag it for the collection. The sex scene in Oldboy was pretty hot if you ask. Sigh. Of course, a little black humor is just what the doctor ordered. Thnx Woo!!!
May 14, 2011
hey, Brian....check out Kim Ji-Woon's latest horror flick: I Saw the Devil. Just your thing, bro.
More Thirst (Bakjwi) reviews
review by . June 24, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
Thirsty For More!!!
Favorite Movie Quote: "Ravage my body sworn to chastity leave me with no pride, and have me live in shame."      Should the name Chan-wook Park sound relatively familiar, it is. More than almost any other living Korean film-maker, Park solidified his well-earned reputation with the sleeper hit Oldboy. Although I've enjoyed & certainly respected his decisions when it comes to other works, I couldn't fathom anything so masterful nor as mature. Thirst actually …
Quick Tip by . May 14, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
After Park Can-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy, the acclaimed Korean director goes forth with a harrowing fable about vampirism and the life of a priest who gets turned into one of the undead.      Sexy, sometimes disturbing and definitely a thematic affair, Park uses his signature style of blending symbolisms, dark humor and themes that bring the viewer to ask questions about what he has seen. Exquisitely acted and definitely a must-see, "Thirst" is one of my best of …
Quick Tip by . May 27, 2011
Thirst is at once an interesting film. From the standpoint of a vampire historian, the film manages to go places and try things that haven't been attempted in vampire films before. At times gruesome, darkly funny, graphically violent, overtly erotic, and ultimately disturbing, Thirst manages to create a flavor (no pun intended) that is unique among horror films. However, it may not be a taste that everyone will appreciate.         The story follows Sang-hyun, a …
review by . October 30, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Sang-Hyun, a Roman Catholic priest, develops urgent cravings after he selflessly volunteers to be guinea pig in a dangerous medical experiment. He resists at first, but thirst has a way of overcoming both scruples and vows. It's a story about faith and redemption, a deeply romantic and moving love story ... and a story about murder, mayhem and sex. Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK), won the Jury Prize at Cannes for this stylish and bloody reinvention of the vampire …
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2009
So far, this one is making my list for top 10 films of 2009 to see although 2009 isn't over yet.
About the reviewer
William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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About this movie


A 2009 film directed by Park Chan-Wook (director of Oldboy) based on Emile Zola's novel. The film is the story about a priest who becomes a vampire because of a flawed experiment. In turn, this priest experiences all the powerful, strong frailties of being a flawed human being and comes face to face with his own conscience and lust for a woman named Tae-Ju.

Screened in San Francisco in April 2009.

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Director: Park Chan-wook
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Horror
Release Date: April 30, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Seo-Gyeong Jeong
DVD Release Date: November 17, 2009
Runtime: 133 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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