January 24, 2010

Thirst (aka "But what happened to _______?")


Did somebody call for a MOOD WHIPLASH? RAWHIDE!

I'm done depression blogging everyone. Uh, for now. You know how it is when I make promises.

I decided to do my first movie review in...shit I don't know. You may not know but I'm taking an Intro to Film Criticism class so I can become legit. Also I'm a film studies minor *shrug* Wow, surprising isn't it?

So anyway, for this class I've been told next week I have a review done. I could get into all the details of WHY but let's just say there's a movie involved, of my choosing, that I've never seen before, and I had to watch and give a review.

Now...I pondered to myself as I browsed Netflix & Amazon, is there a movie I've NOT seen before?! (yes) This was thankfully before I had my super-colossal meltdown and everything. I'm an impatient person and if I'm going to watch a movie it'd damn better be worth my while, class or no class.

So I picked out 2009's Thirst (Bakjwi) by director Chan-Wook Park, whom you may recognize from such films as the Vengeance Trilogy (Oldboy, Mr Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), his short film "Cut" in the Three...Extremes movie, and the strangely hilarious I'm A Robot But That's Okay. You could say I'm quite the fan of this man here.

*looks at notecards* Knowledge established and...

So let's not mince words. This is a vampire movie. The vampirism isn't really the focus of the movie for long however--oh it's noticeable, but it feels more like these two people that just so happen to be vampires. Oh but I get ahead of myself...

Father Sang-hyun IS a no-nonsense, well respected man of the cloth who also commits his time to volunteering at a local hospital. Unbeknownst to his dedicated lambs the shepherd is having a bit of a faith crisis, as priests are want to do in movies in which they are featured.

After having his faith tested by human pain & suffering (this is the part where you would normally just give a Kanye Shrug), Sang-hyun gets the idea to make himself a guinea pig in finding a cure for the deadly yet strangely ebola-like virus, the Emmanuel Virus or "EV" (pronounce in the movie "eve"). This is quite the nasty virus as it turns out, causing large blisters on the skin, in the nostrils, muscles, etc and when they get big enough they asplode and--I'm sorry was that graphic enough for you?

So, the virus seems to only effect men who are missionaries, mostly Caucasians and Asians (and here you breathe a sigh of relief then mutter "waaait a minute"). Without giving too much away, Sang-hyun can't even finish a flute solo before the virus overtakes him and he's rushed to the hospital for a blood transfusion where he promptly dies.

Moment of silence.

...and we're back, Sang-hyun's back. The Bandaged Saint's recovery is a miracle and like all messiahs Sang-hyun soon has an unwanted cult of devoted followers (this is the part where you remember Jesus Christ Superstar and begin singing "Can ya heal me Christ?"). Among his new cult is an old-childhood sorta-hypochondriac friend Kang-woo and his mother Lady Ra who ask for his blessings. After this Sang-hyun finds himself staying with Lady Ra & her son and Kang-woo's wife Tae-ju.

If you've been awake thus far you might begin to guess--and be correct--that Tae-ju and Sang-hyun begin to have a wild affair. Meanwhile the now ex-priest is getting used to his new abilities and is soon caught sippin' Cris in the form of a comatose patient. Tae-ju panics at this but comes back soon enough. And soon inexplicably they begin to plant her wimpy husband's death. Which happens on an ill-fated fishing trip (3 hour tour). Success! The couple should be happy now but unfortunately they're soon haunted by Kang-woo's ghost. And then his mother drinks herself into paralysis.

(caption: Screen cap of Kang-woo's....ghost, sort of, sandwiched between Sang-hyun and Tae-ju making love.) Kang-woo has a loopy grin and is facing the camera, the audience.

... After that it just gets plain weird. You'll have to forgive me if so far I've been, ah, short with the movie summary. Partly is for want of not spoiling the whole movie for you and frankly most of these events tumble down just as predictably as a waterfall tends to fall straight downward on account of gravity. And if you think I say "inexplicable" too often it's only because, well, a good deal of what happened here was odd to me.

Let's get to the subtitle here ("what happened to ____?"). My big question here is HOW THE FUCK DID SANG-HYUN BECOME A VAMPIRE. According to most movie summaries it is said that he is vampirized by a wayward blood transfusion which brings up a host of questions by itself--like...what is a vampire doing giving blood?

Let's talk about Sang-hyun some more. He's a priest and he's conflicted, and now if he doesn't drink blood the symptoms of his disease, the EV virus, come roaring back. And then he's a vampire having an affair with his sorta-friend's wife. There is so much going on here and it feels like, despite being the star of the show, his motives never really get a lot of play.

Then there's the matter of his lover, Tae-ju. I have no idea why but this lady was annoying. Her dead-ish acting worked in the beginning because frankly she lives a dead-end existence--a hypochondriac husband, overbearing step mother, they're pretty poor, etc. But as the story goes on she gets more and more...I dunno, bad.

Loose ends people. LOOSE ENDS. I don't like them. Some things--like Kang-woo's ghost--are just trademarks of Park's directing/story telling. But some things just pop up without explanation and I'm left wondering what the hell just happened there, like the EV virus, the blood transfusion, the faux-rape at the end (like...did he really have to resort to that? You'll see what I mean I think), the kinda-sorta Final Girl at the end, all that good shit.

Back to the summary, without giving too much away Tae-ju and Sang-hyun's love affair becomes their downfall big time (with that whole vampirism thing too) as the movie swirls towards it's pretty inevitable conclusion.

My parting words for this movie would be that...it's not BAD by any stretch of the imagination. It's not going to revolutionize the vampire genre but I don't believe Park was intending to. So while it's length was a bit grating and the lack of super-surprising events, I'd still recommend this movie if you're looking for a good low-key vampire drama with splashes of dark humor.

Also while we're here, tell me how my new alt-text captions are! Part of making my blog HOPEFULLY more accessible for folks...except for that last foto, I couldn't host it on ImageShack and Blogger wouldn't let me do the alt-text thing again for some reason. Ed: Gaaahhh.

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