Thirst (2009 film)


Korean theatrical poster
Revised Romanization Bakjwi
McCune–Reischauer Pakchwi
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by Park Chan-wook
Ahn Soo-hyun
Written by Park Chan-wook
Jeong Seo-Kyeong
Based on Thérèse Raquin
by Émile Zola
Starring Song Kang-ho
Kim Ok-bin
Shin Ha-kyun
Kim Hae-sook
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Chung-hoon Chung
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
Distributed by Focus Features (US)
CJ Entertainment (South Korea)
Release dates
  • 30 April 2009 (2009-04-30)
Running time
134 minutes[1]
145 minutes (Director's cut)
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Box office US$13,008,937[2]

Thirst (Korean: 박쥐; Bakjwi; literally: Bat) is a 2009 South Korean horror film written, produced and directed by Park Chan-wook. It is loosely based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola.[3] The film tells the story of a Catholic priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment.[4] Park has stated, "This film was originally called 'The Bat' to convey a sense of horror. After all, it is about vampires. But it is also more than that. It is about passion and a love triangle. I feel that it is unique because it is not just a thriller, and not merely a horror film, but an illicit love story as well."[5] The film won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.[6] It is the first mainstream Korean film to feature full-frontal male nudity.[7]


Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a Catholic priest who volunteers at the hospital, providing ministry to the patients. He is well respected for his unwavering faith and dedicated service, but he secretly suffers from feelings of doubt and sadness. Sang-hyun volunteers to participate in an experiment to find a vaccine for the deadly Emmanuel Virus (EV). Although the experiment fails, and Sang-hyun is infected with the seemingly fatal disease, he makes a complete and rapid recovery after receiving a blood transfusion.

News of his marvelous recovery quickly spreads among the devout parishioners of Sang-hyun’s congregation, and they begin to believe that he has a miraculous gift for healing. Soon, thousands more flock to Sang-Hyun’s services. Among the new churchgoers are Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun), Sang-hyun’s childhood friend, and his family. Kang-woo invites his old friend to join the weekly mahjong night at his house, and there, Sang-hyun finds himself attracted to Kang-woo’s wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin). Sang-hyun later relapses into his illness and wakes in dire need of shelter from the sunlight, having become a vampire.

At first, Sang-hyun feels a new-found vigor but soon he is aghast to find himself drinking blood from a comatose patient. After attempting to kill himself, Sang-hyun finds himself irresistibly drawn to human blood. To make matters worse, the symptoms of EV return and only seem to go away when he has drunk blood. Desperately trying to avoid committing a murder, Sang-hyun resorts to stealing blood transfusion packs from the hospital. Tae-ju, who lives with her ill husband and overprotective mother-in-law, Lady Ra (Kim Hae-sook), leads a dreary life. She is drawn to Sang-hyun and his odd new physicality, including his inability to resist his desires. The two begin an affair, but when Tae-ju discovers the truth about Sang-hyun, she retreats in fear. When Sang-hyun pleads with her to run away with him, she turns him down, suggesting that they kill her husband instead.[5]

When Sang-hyun's superior at the monastery requests some vampire blood so that his eyes may heal and he may see the world before dying, Sang-hyun flees his position at the monastery. He moves into Lady Ra's house so that he may secretly be with Tae-ju. Sang-hyun notices bruises on Tae-ju and assumes her husband is the cause, a suspicion she sheepishly confirms. Sang-hyun decides to kill Kang-woo during a fishing trip with the couple. He pulls Kang-woo into the water and claims that he placed the body inside a cabinet in a house at the bottom of the lake, putting a rock on the body to keep it from floating to the surface.

A police investigation ensues. Lady Ra drinks herself into shock after her son's death, sinking into a completely paralyzed state. In the meantime, Sang-hyun and Tae-ju are haunted by terrifying visions of Kang-woo's bloated corpse. When Tae-ju lets slip that Kang-woo never abused her, Sang-hyun is enraged because he only killed Kang-woo to protect her. Teary-eyed, she asks Sang-hyun to kill her and let her return to her husband. He obliges by snapping her neck, but after feeding on her blood, decides he does not want to be alone forever and feeds her corpse his own blood. She awakens as a vampire. Lady Ra, knocked to the floor by a seizure, witnesses everything.

Tae-ju quickly shows herself to be a remorseless monster, killing indiscriminately to feed, while Sang-hyun acts more conservatively, not killing unless he has to. Their conflicting ethics result in a chase across the rooftops and a short battle. Some time later, Lady Ra manages to communicate to Kang-woo's friends that Sang-hyun and Tae-ju killed her son. Tae-ju quickly disposes of two of the friends, and Sang-hyun appears to eliminate the third. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sang-hyun tells Tae-ju that they must flee or be caught. Before leaving with her, he makes a visit to the camp of worshipers who consider him the miracle EV survivor. He makes it seem like he tried to rape a girl, leading the campers to chase him away, no longer idolizing him.

Sang-hyun then places Lady Ra in his car, and with Tae-ju, drives into the night. Back at the house, the third friend (apparently not killed by Sang-hyun) escapes. Upon waking from a nap in the car, Tae-ju realizes that Sang-hyun has driven to a desolate field with no cover from the imminent dawn. Realizing his plan to have them both burn when dawn breaks, Tae-ju tries to hide but Sang-hyun foils her every attempt. Resigning herself to her fate, she joins him on the car hood, and both are burnt to ash by the sun, as Lady Ra watches from the backseat of the car.



Thirst is the first mainstream Korean film to feature full-frontal adult male nudity.[8]


Thirst received generally favorable reviews from critics on its original release; film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 82% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 92.[9] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 73, based on 21 reviews.[10]

Prominent film critic Roger Ebert awarded Thirst three out of a possible four stars, citing that the director was "today's most successful director of horror films."[11] The website IGN awarded the film three and a half out of five stars and said "Thirst may not be the greatest vampire movie ever made, but Park's willingness to try something different makes it a decidedly fresh take on the genre."[12]

Box office

On 3 May, Thirst debuted at #1 at the South Korean Box office and grossed 1,174,224,500 the first day and 4,369,977,022 for that three-day weekend.[13][14] More than 2,223,429 tickets were sold nationwide becoming the 9th most attended film of 2009.[15]

Awards and nominations

2009 Cannes Film Festival[16]
2009 Chunsa Film Art Awards
2009 Grand Bell Awards
2009 Blue Dragon Film Awards
2009 Director's Cut Awards
2010 Asian Film Awards
2010 Baeksang Arts Awards

Home media

Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a region 1 DVD of Thirst on 17 November 2009.[17] No extras are included, but the film was produced in amamorphic widescreen with Korean DD5.1 Surround audio and subtitles in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. The director's cut, running 145 minutes, has been so far released in Korea only, on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

See also


  1. "THIRST (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  2. Thirst tops Korean box office over holiday weekend, Screen Daily, 2009/05/05. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  3. "THIRST (BAK-JWI, 2009)—Interview with Park Chan-wook". Twitch. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  4. "Bloody Disgusting Horror — "Thirst (Kr)" Movie Info". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  5. 1 2 "Thirst" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  6. "Festival de Cannes: Thirst". Festival Cannes. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  7. Interview - Quenching His 'Thirst'. Author: Cassie Carpenter. Publisher: Published: 3 August 2009. Retrieved: 26 April 2014.
  8. Carpenter, Cassie. "Quenching His 'Thirst'". Backstage, 3 August 2009. Retrieved on 26 September 2009.
  9. "Thirst – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
  10. "Thirst (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
  11. Ebert, Roger (13 August 2009). "Thirst". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  12. Utichi, Joe (15 May 2009). "Cannes 09: Thirst Review". IGN UK. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  17. THIRST Comes to DVD 17 November, Horror Movies, 2009/09/21. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
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