“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”. That’s what Bong Joon-ho said at the Golden Globes. The other night at Alamo Drafthouse, I got to experience that first hand. They were showing Thirst, a Korean vampire film by Park Chan-wook (director of Oldboy) starring Song Kang-ho from Parasite. I had this sitting on my Best Buy wishlist for a long time, without remembering how it got there other than vampires. I eventually took it off since that list never seems to get any shorter otherwise. But when I saw it on Drafthouse’s schedule, and looked at those names associated with it, it wasn’t a question. Plus it would give me an excuse to leave my friends’ Superbowl party early.
I almost didn’t make it to the film. That morning, I started feeling the warning signs of a migraine. I took some meds and layed low on the couch all morning. My Superbowl party appearance was in jeopardy, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to deal with subtitles if my head was pounding. Thankfully, I caught it in time. So I didn’t feel 100%, and passed on the Bloodiest Scene ever shake from their best of 2019 menu (it looks like it was just ice cream and rum chata, so I’ll just make one myself later), and instead opted for a giant pot of hot peppermint tea. It was absolutely worth leaving the house for, and throwing off my sleep cycle for a couple days with it getting out after my usual bedtime.
Song plays a very pious and devout priest. He’s known nothing but a life of abstinence and abnegation. Frustrated with seeing his community falling victim to deadly disease, he volunteers for a clinical drug trial with a very bleak outlook. So bleak, that he does in fact die, but a mysterious blood transfusion saves him at a cost. It turns him into a vampire. Without fresh blood, the disease comes back in full force. Now all the carnal desires he once brushed off easily are in full force, and a girl he grew up with back home is starting to look pretty enticing.
I loved every second of this film, mostly because of the imagery. I think we’ve long since established (even if I haven’t talked about it lately) how much I love vampires. Something I specifically love about encountering new vampire stories is seeing how they apply the rules and mythology of these creatures. What traditional ideas are they taking and what new twists are we applying? Thirst was very traditional in its mythology, evoking some very classic images in a much more modern setting to make something absolutely gorgeous. But as beautiful as those moments were, it was the absolutely bonkers ones that I adored. Park has some twisted creativity, and I was living for those quirky shots he’d bring in. So much so that this morning I finally ordered a copy of Oldboy, cause I’m a terrible person who has only seen the remake.
I was in it for the vampires, but it’s also a classic gothic romance. I completely adored our leading lady, Kim Ok-vin. Well eventually I loved her. It took a bit to realize why she was such a strong object of affection, but I soon was under her spell. I might not do too many romantic films, but I’ll takes ones with a dark side like this. And blood. Lots and lots of blood.