Tag Archives: catholicism

Thirst – Review

12 Jan

Anyone who reads these reviews knows that I’m a huge fan of South Korean movies. South Korea is actually may favorite market for foreign film because of the amount of beautifully shot films that come out of there. Today we’re going to be looking at a movie made by Park Chan-wook who is prominently known for his cult classic Oldboy, but also for dabbling in the American market with Stoker. I’ve always found the majority of his movies to be beautiful but awfully pretentious. The same can be said for his 2009 film Thirst, although it is far more enjoyable than others like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.

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Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a Catholic priest who feels that his life should be dedicated more to than just prayer. To make himself feel more fulfilled both with his life and faith, Sang-hyun decides to volunteer to become a test subject to find a cure for the deadly Emmanuel Virus, which has been wiping people out all over the globe. While he does in fact die during the test, he is resurrected when a blood transfusion is performed, but with some unexplainable side effects. Sang-hyun is now cursed with vampirism and survives day to day by stealing blood from hospitals. Life after death becomes even more complicated when he is reunited with Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), a childhood acquaintance who insists on becoming a vampire.

This is just such a cool idea for a movie. When done properly, vampire movies can contain some of the coolest and most memorable scenes and characters. Interview With a Vampire is my go to vampire movie, but then there’s the comedic What We Do in the Shadows that also works great as a vampire movie. In Thirst, the biggest draw that separates it from the rest is the fact that a Catholic priest is turned into a vampire. This is an interesting plot point since Catholics believe so strongly in going to either heaven or hell after they die, and this priest is now stuck in this undead state and is forced to drink blood to survive. Another interesting thing is that Park wrote vampirism to be some weird biological side effect to the disease that Sang-hyun volunteered to help find a cure for. It puts an interesting and worldly twist on something that is normally considered supernatural.

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With his other films, Park Chan-wook has shown himself to be highly skilled at creating a visually beautiful movie. While his movies do look beautiful, I’ve always felt that they’ve lacked in terms of telling a story. In both these regards, Thirst is no different. There’s a lot of great looking scenes in this movie that deserve a lot of attention, but Park doesn’t really explore the narrative possibilities to their full potential. There’s a vampire priest that’s engaged in a sexually charged relationship with a woman who feels the need to become a vampire. That should open a lot of doors to utilize different vampire lore or character development, but that doesn’t really happen to the degree it should. With that in mind, there are also a lot of scenes where nothing really happens and just serve to drag the movie out a little bit intead of a scene that could include something that would boost the movie up.

Thirst is an example of a really good movie that gets weighed down by the pretentiousness of the film maker. Park Chan-wook obviously has a lot to say about a lot of things, but he’s conveying these ideas in broken sentences. It’s pretty clear that Park’s main goal was to make a beautiful piece of art, but the art of a movie isn’t just how it looks or sounds. To me, one of the most important pieces to a film is the story. Narrative should never be discounted as not important to making a cinematic work of art, even if it’s something more abstract or experimental. That’s just my personal taste anyway.

I don’t want this review to sound negative because I actually did enjoy Thirst and appreciate the work that Park Chan-wook put into it. It’s actually one of his best movies after Oldboy. I just wish more attention would have been put into the lore of the vampire and more detail added to create a flowing story. I actually highly recommend this film to people who love a good vampire movie, but just don’t expect a completely fulfilling movie.

Alice, Sweet Alice – Review

25 Feb

The 1970s was a big decade for the horror genre, especially when it came to slasher films. In 1974, Tobe Hooper gave us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and in 1979, John Carpenter’s Halloween was released. I’ve talked about and referenced these movies many times because I feel like they are very important to the genre. If you look hard enough, however, hidden between these two movies is the 1976 film Alice, Sweet Alice directed and cowritten by Alfred Sole. This is a film that has now become a cult classic, but should really be considered a masterwork in the horror genre.

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Karen Spages (Brooke Shields in her first role) is a 9 year old girl who is more than ready for her First Communion. Her older sister Alice (Paula Sheppard) on the other hand is more of a problem child and causes her mother Catharine (Linda Miller) to be stressed. During Karen’s First Communion, she is brutally murdered with evidence pointing at Alice as the culprit. Catharine’s ex-husband, Dom (Niles McMaster) comes back to town for the funeral, but also to start his own investigation. As Dom keeps snooping around, more of the Spages family and other tenants in the building begin getting attacked and killed in a variety of ways while Alice fights back against the accusations of being a murderer.

This movie felt like a combination of so many cool things. It felt like Alfred Hitchcock meets Jean-Pierre Jeunet, or John Carpenter meets Dario Argento. Really it’s like they all just mushed together and this is the result. It has the feeling and pacing of a giallo film by Argento, thy mystery of Hitchcock, the horror of Carpenter, and the oddball scenes found in a Jeunet movie. It really is baffling how a movie with this much creativity and thought remained so unnoticed. Alice, Sweet Alice belongs in the upper echelons of horror films, especially since it was so successful on such a small budget.

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It’s easy to make people jump, but it isn’t easy to make people feel uncomfortable. Horror movies now seem to aim to give people a momentary scare with a cheap build up, but this film is something entirely different. Just look at that picture. Just look at that god damn mask. If that isn’t one of the freakiest masks you’ve ever seen, than I don’t even know what. There’s also plenty of other great scares in the movie. Remember that scene in Psycho when Norman Bates walks out of his mother’s room and stabs the guy on the stairs? It’s so out of nowhere and unexpected, and a lot of the scary scenes in Alice, Sweet Alice reminded me of that. Things happen so suddenly and without any warning.

There’s also a really interesting use of the Catholic faith in this movie that only strengthens the eerie atmosphere. I’m not saying that the Catholic faith is eerie, but it isn’t very hard to make it seem that way. In one scene in particular, the murderer is doing their thing and the camera keeps cutting away to the faces of different statues, almost as if they’re all watching this happen. That, along with the use of church hymns and the receiving of communion while there’s a murderer present is just a weird thing. It’s a very off putting feeling that sets this movie above the average horror film.

Alice, Sweet Alice is a memorable and effective horror movie that has undeservedly only received the honor of being a cult classic. This is a very strange and unsettling movie, but that should appeal to horror fans even more than most other generic films that have gotten way more recognition. This film isn’t only creepy, it’s also provides genuine scares, suspense the whole way through, and a great mystery story on top of it all. To those horror fans who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this one, I highly advise you get on it right away.