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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton




Director Chan-wook Park (2009)

Fangs ain’t what they used to be. Vampires have changed. In the 19th century vampires came from the outside, pointedly from the East and the muslim Ottoman Empire. The modern vampire is much more of a domestic creation. Vampirism is an aspect of ourselves, or at least of our society.

So in Being Human Mitchell has a steady job and lives in Bristol and in True Blood, currently being screened on Channel 4, vampires are called ‘Bill’ and live openly among the ‘breathers’, though not without suffering a good deal of bigotry.

The roots of vampirism are hard to detect in Chan-wook Park’s Korean twist on the genre, Thirst. Priest Sang-hyun (Kang-ho Song) takes part in a medical experiment which goes horribly wrong, but miraculously he survives – the price being a taste for blood, hyper-sensitivity and superhuman strength. Oh, and an irresistible craving for sex, never a happy outcome for a priest.

He’s determined to to kill in pursuit of his blood-lust though, and gets round it by lying on the floor next to coma patients at the hospital where he works and sucking it from the drip feed. I forgot to mention Thirst is a comedy as well as a horror, and a witty one at that.

Where he comes unstuck is over the sex thing as he embarks on a passionate affair with the utterly gorgeous Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), losing his principles as well as his virginity.

Steadily we realise we are moving out of the vampire genre and into the Emile Zola genre. Park was inspired by Zola’s novel Therese Raquin and animal desires drive our hero and heroine ever deeper into the darker corners of the human psyche. The thirst for blood becomes a metaphor for those destructive passions.

Thirst’s vampires are disturbingly like the rest of us. They haven’t even got fangs – scissors are just as good.

Thirst has had what are called ‘mixed reviews’. But while I don’t think it really all hangs together Park’s bizarre imagination creates a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema. And while I fried a bloody cut of lamb’s liver for my tea, I couldn’t help wondering…

October 23, 2009

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