Cannes review: Vampires should have been right up director Park Chan-wook's alley but Thirst only leaves viewers thirsty for something better.
The vampire genre should have been the perfect vehicle for the Oldboy director Park Chan-wook to explore his favourite themes of sin and redemption. However, his first film after the acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy is a messy, convoluted and obvious romance that desperately wants to be the genre's Natural Born Killers but instead is more like a Bela Lugosi collaboration with Ed Wood. The priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) volunteers to go to Africa and be a test subject in an experiment to find a cure for a deadly disease. Having died, the priest receives a blood transfusion and is miraculously resurrected. Six months later, the bandaged priest returns to his homeland, where he's received as a modern day prophet. In a confused state, he starts frequenting the home of his childhood friend Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun), who lives with an overbearing mother Mrs Ra (Kim Hae-sook) and his wife Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin) in a household reminiscent of a bad 1970s TV sitcom. Then, in typical Chan-Wook style, the visuals go haywire and a fairy tale Red Riding Hood aesthetic replete with full moon and dark clouds signify that the priest has turned into a vampire. This leads to the dilemma of how the priest can survive without killing, a task made all the more difficult by his growing friendship with Tae-ju. She convinces him to embrace vampire living and the pair go on the rampage. Nonetheless, the few funny or visceral scenes cannot hide the fact that in the year that the vampire flick has been reinvigorated by Let The Right One In and Twilight, this is a major disappointment.
* Kaleem Aftab