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‘Thirst’ Gives Vampire Genre New Blood

Forget "Twilight." Fans of vampire movies are not likely to see anything more graphic, extreme or twisted than Thirst.

Most of the film features voracious vampires cracking bones and feeding lustily and inventively on the comatose, as well as more traditional fare such as corpses. It's awash in excess, but also a fresh take on an old genre and notable for its striking cinematography and intriguing use of color. The horror/comedy/melodrama hybrid has some weird-funny moments.

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho of "The Host") is a Catholic priest who volunteers to be infected with a deadly virus to help doctors find a vaccine. Instead, of course, things go horribly wrong. He is given a transfusion of blood that is tainted - and then some. The priest turns into a vampire. In his more religious state, he resembles a preppy Korean John Lennon. As a blood-sucker, he grows more disheveled. The contrast between his early ascetic life and his eventual descent into extreme carnality is intriguing but grows numbing as it reaches its protracted conclusion.

Besides craving blood, Sang-hyun wrestles with newfound carnal desires. Assisting in his quest for sensual pleasures is Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), the young wife of an old friend. She goes from demure to demonic in record time.

Director Park Chan-wook ("Old Boy") has said he doesn't watch horror films (they scare him) and doesn't consider "Thirst" to be one. But with its unrelentingly gruesome visuals, how could it be anything else?

Thirst is at least a half-hour too long. The story goes off course with pointless distractions and feeds on non-stop grisliness. Blood is constantly spurting, spraying and sloshing. Even if you can handle the visuals, there's still the auditory assault: How long can we listen to blood being greedily slurped before squirming gets the better of us?

Rated R for graphic bloody violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content, nudity and language

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