Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Boldly erotic and playfully ponderous about sins of the flesh, Korean provocateur Park Chan-wook’s Thirst ripped open its bodice, and various veins, with arterial sprays of carnage and carnality.
It also added a few major religious wrinkles to the vampire genre, usually the exclusive domain of satanic lapdogs.
Disillusioned priest Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho, of The Host and Memories of Murder) subjects himself to experimental vaccine treatment for a killer virus. After a blood transfusion saves him, Sang exhibits no symptoms, prompting some to dub him a healer
However, deprived of fresh blood, Sang’s viral symptoms return and, in time, Sang develops mood swings, supernatural strength and insatiable lust for Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin) — the abused wife of a crippled boyhood friend.
2009’s Thirst develops into a fanged fusion of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, with explicit, sweaty, animalistic sex — kill scenes aren’t the only ones with wet, lapping sound effects — and its resultant manipulation toward murder.
Characters’ curiosities, pleasures and doubts keep these moments from feeling cheaply pornographic. Also, Thirst’s visual effects are as accomplished as any Hollywood production, and such polish on a film so clearly intended to unnerve is a morbid delight.
In its coda, Thirst tackled immortality’s drudgery and intimate betrayal, in which Sang regretted what he begat — after murder, what ravenous rapture remains for vampires?
Using savage wit, frank sexuality and grim lyricism, Park’s Thirst took up David Cronenberg’s mantle of desires invading the body and the mind. Long live the new flesh, indeed.