A while back a friend of mine who is always right about everything told me to watch the 1979 Australian vampire flick THIRST. We happened to have a VHS copy at the video store I worked at so I brought it home, threw it into the gizmo and got about five minutes in before shutting it off. I was not in the mood, plus the tape looked like, what’s the word?…crap. Flash forward a decade or so and I stumbled upon a used DVD of THIRST for a mere $5.99. I picked it up because I have a horrible hoarding problem and frequently imagine a desperate snowed-in scenario that will never occur to justify my unnecessary purchases. Well I wasn’t so much snowed in as bored out of my skull the other night and I decide to give THIRST another chance and boy I’m glad I did. On DVD, the film is a looker and as others have said before me, one of the most original vampire films ever made.
Dear KATIE HOLMES, remember when I told you that if you just waited long enough the perfect role for you would emerge? Well, get Tommy to buy the rights for this movie and get it remade stat. It’s about a chick named Kate who finds herself the prisoner of a diabolical cult who use human beings as livestock (in this case it’s blood rather than moola that is siphoned!) Her every attempt at escape is thwarted and eventually the gal starts flipping her lid, you can pull that off right? What’s that you say? You’d rather redo a movie about a woman terrorized by tiny men (WHO’S AFRAID OF THE DARK?) O.K. that makes sense too…
Putting snarky insults towards people I’ve never met aside, you get your fair share of pointy teeth within THIRST, but the emphasis is more on our heroine’s psychological state as she tries to avoid submission to the cult’s methodic conditioning. As a direct descendent of Elizabeth Bathory, Kate’s dormant “thirst” for blood is inbred and the cult believes it requires only a bit of nudging to emerge. As if tempting an on-the-wagon alcoholic, “The Brotherhood” begins spiking her liquid intake with the red stuff; hallucinations and overlapping reality warping dream states are the result. This is where the film excels, the scenes involving Kate’s paranoia and mental deterioration would make ROMAN POLANSKI proud. One particular bit that involves a crumbling wall stands as a highly effective visual metaphor for the interior war Kate seems born to loose.
THIRST has about five too many endings and might have been better served concluding before it does, but when it’s working it’s strong stuff. Direction by television mainstay ROD HARDY (who directed a similarly themed episode of the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA re-imagining entitled “The Farm”) is brisk and forthright where it needs to be, yet smoothly transitions into the artsy and surreal without breaking a sweat. The performances (including a bit part by frequent bad guy HENRY SILVA) are surprisingly restrained considering the subject matter. As dated as the film can tend to be (especially in the technology department) it’s apparent that all involved took the material seriously. If you think you’ve seen it all in regard to our bloodsucking friends you definitely need to give THIRST a chance. By sparing us the clichés and concentrating on the psychological it stands up better than most vamp flicks half its age.