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Film / Thirst

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"Let no one pray for me."

Thirst is a 2009 horror/drama film directed by Park Chan Wook, best known for Joint Security Area and his Vengeance Trilogy. The film is a very loose adaptation of the French novel Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola.

The film follows Sang-hyun, a Korean Catholic priest who contracts vampirism during a medical experiment. Still motivated by his strict religious upbringing, Sang-hyun commits himself to feeding through non-harmful means. Soon, however, he bows to his increasingly powerful urges and becomes infatuated with Tae-ju, the Cinderella-like wife of a childhood acquaintance. Sang-hyun soon begins making moral concessions to get closer to Tae-ju, who turns out to be much more dangerous than he could have imagined.


This film contains examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Unlike Sang-hyun, Tae-ju takes this attitude to vampirism, comparing a vampire killing a human to a fox killing a chicken.
  • And I Must Scream: Lady Ra.
  • Ascended Extra: Looking at as an adaptation of Therese Raquin, Laurent (Sang-hyun) is the central character as opposed to Therese (Tae-ju).
  • Asshole Victim: Tae-ju.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sang-hyun.
  • Black Comedy: There are a few moments of dark humor, like when Sang-hyun and Tae-ju are arguing over whether they should go through with their plan of murdering Kang-woo. While Kang-woo is sitting right next to them, meekly suggesting that they don't.
  • Blood from the Mouth:
    • Blood pours out of Sang-hyun's mouth as he plays the flute just before he dies of the EV disease. Of course, he doesn't stay dead. It happens again later when he experiences another resurgence of the disease.
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    • Tae-ju's mouth pours blood when Sang-hyun crushes her throat. He licks the blood off of her chest until deciding to turn her.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: After abstaining from blood for a time, the EV disease causes blood to pour from Sang-hyun's eyes and ears.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sang-hyun is horrified and repulsed when his mentor, a blind old priest, begs to be turned so that he can regain his sight. This leads him to reject both his faith and the priesthood.
  • Car Cushion: Sang-hyun attempts suicide by jumping out of the hospital window after discovering his new condition. With only three cars parked against the hospital, of course he lands on one of them.
  • Cue the Sun
  • Death Faked for You: Sang-hyun makes Tae-ju think he killed Evelyn, but spares her life.
  • Destructive Romance: Between Sang-hyun and Tae-ju.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Tae-ju, initially. Her increasing liking for shoes balances her moral decay.
  • Double Meaning: Everyone at the table thinks that Sang-hyun and Tae-ju talk about Majhong while they actually talk about having sex.
  • Downer Ending: Tae-ju kills all her friends and Sang-hyun and her drive out to the edge of a cliff. Sang-hyun does a Heroic Suicide and makes it so that Tae-ju dies with him.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Tae-ju, especially after becoming a vampire, when her already pale skin becomes porcelain white.
  • Emergency Transformation: Sang-hyun nearly strangles Tae-ju to death when he realizes that she lied about Kang-Wu abusing her, then changes his mind at the last minute and vampirises her before she dies.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: ALL the main characters minus Lady Ra die at the end.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Tae-ju started off as a mistreated Woobie berated by her mother-in-law and in an unloving relationship with Kang-woo. Then when she becomes a vampire, she kills people indiscriminately, including her close circle of friends.
  • Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: Vampire blood is hinted to be able to heal not just its owners injuries and ailments, but others' as well. A minuscule amount falling in Lady Ra's food may have had a small effect on her paralysis; before consuming it she is visibly trying and failing to move her hand, whereas afterward, she successfully begins moving a single finger, which leads to her outing Sang-hyun and Tae-ju for murdering her son.
    • Also makes Priest Roh's fate Harsher in Hindsight: a few drops of blood, rather than becoming a vampire, may have been enough to cure his blindness. Same goes for the people convinced that Sang-hyun could cure their various ills.
  • Femme Fatale: Tae-ju, who seduces Sang-hyun, convinces him to murder her husband and, after he turns her into a vampire, becomes a gleefully amoral predator.
  • Fingore:
    • When Sang-Hyun volunteers for the medical study he suffers the effects of the Emmanuel Virus, one of which is his fingernails falling out.
    • Also, Tae-ju breaks several of Sang-Hyun's fingers while trying to force him to let go of a trunk hood.
  • Foreshadowing: With a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall thrown in; soon after becoming a vampire, Tae-ju turns on the television for Lady Ra to watch, remarking that "a scary movie's gonna be on". It marks a point when the horror ramps up as Tae-ju becomes increasingly amoral and murderous.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Sang-hyun does his best not to kill anyone. He takes blood from a comatose patient he believes would have given his blood freely to the hungry. He also provides peaceful suicides.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend Tae-ju rather quickly after becoming a vampire.
  • Hemo Erotic: When Sang-hyun is alone with Tae-ju, he wants to have sex with her and wants to drink her blood - and does both, at the same time. She wonders out loud if it is weird that she enjoys it.
  • Heroic Suicide: Sang-hyun.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: The two main characters experience quite a lot of this, though their relationship was fraying well before Tae-ju becomes a vampire.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Arguably Tae-ju.
  • May–December Romance: Perhaps not intentional on the director's part, but the actors playing Sang-hyun and Tae-ju are twenty years apart.
  • My Beloved Smother: Lady Ra dotes on Kang-woo, who always seems to be ill.
  • Never One Murder: Tae-ju ends up killing most of her family's friends after Lady Ra conveys to them that she and Sang-hyun killed Kang-Woo.
  • Not So Different: After Sang-hyun confronts Tae-ju about framing Kang-woo so Sang-hyun will kill him, Tae-ju claims that Sang-hyun would have gone through with it anyway.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Using a simple code of slow/fast blinks, Mrs. Ra reveals that Tae-ju and Sang-hyun killed Kang-woo.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tae-ju when she drunkenly lets slip that Kang-Woo never hit her, which was Sang-hyun's motivation to kill him in the first place.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampire blood can heal your infirmities and illnesses, but only so long as you're full of it. Vampires don't grow fangs, but they can still suck blood from bite wounds. They're super-strong and almost totally immune to damage, but do have the typical weakness to sunlight. Sang-hyun also briefly flies.
    Park Chan-wook: I had the idea of telling a story about a Catholic priest first, so in having him turn into a vampire… If he had a fear of the cross, or the crucifix, it just wouldn’t make the rest of the story viable at all. So, actually, I had to get rid of that convention. And also, in Korea, all the food that you eat has garlic in it. They put garlic into everything in Korea. So, if you’re scared of garlic, there’s no drop of blood you can feed on in Korea. [1]
  • Religious Vampire: The whole plot revolves around what would have happened if a Catholic priest became a vampire. While desperately trying to cling to his faith as a way of remaining a good person, he ultimately gives into despair and decides to kill himself alongside the woman he loved because she turned into a monster.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Sang-hyun seems to believe that he got a transfusion of vampire blood in Africa. How vampire blood came to be in an African hospital is never explained, nor does Sang-hyun make any attempt to find out.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Sang-hyun becomes famous as "the bandaged saint" after miraculously surviving EV. A small group of followers camp outside his monastery, to his great annoyance. In the end he pretends to try to rape one of them so that they'll abandon their vigil.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: Definitely on Sang-hyun's part, less voluntarily on Tae-Ju's.
  • Taking You with Me: Sang-hyun to Tae-ju.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Tae-ju.
  • Wicked Stepmother: A subversion. Lady Ra is tough on Tae-ju, but during a drinking session she reveals that she does care about Tae-ju and plans to put the family business in her name. Tae-ju makes Sang-hyun believe that her family is much worse than they really are.


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