APRIL 10, 2010
Did you ever see Near Dark? Did you like it? Did you spend most of it wishing that Lance Henriksen's character had a bad Russian accent? If you’re like most people, you only answered yes to the first two questions. But if you’re that rare other type who answered all three in the affirmative, then you will love the shit out of The Thirst. While it has some unique ideas and is more or less a good way to kill 90 minutes, the constant parallels to Near Dark drove me up a wall.
The key difference is that our hero knew and had a long (but not apparently healthy) relationship with the vampire woman, as opposed to Near Dark’s “Boy meets vampire” setup. But once he turns its pretty much the same thing - they take him out to destroy a bar, he’s apprehensive, then starts getting into it, the girl has a change of heart, they rebel against the vampire “family” (one of whom is a scenery-chewing hardass - Bill Paxton in the former, Adam Baldwin here), etc. It’s practically a “re-imagining”. Now, maybe this was the intention (I would certainly hope so), but I would have preferred if the film didn’t follow Kathryn Bigelow’s narrative so closely, particularly in the middle act.
Luckily, what it DOES bring to the table is pretty great - RIDICULOUS AMOUNTS OF BLOOD. Seriously, this may be the most arterially packed movie ever made. Every single neck (or other body part) bite results in a literal fountain of blood. It’s way over the top and physically impossible, but I loved it. Even when the visual got a bit repetitive, I never got sick of picturing the poor actors being hosed down over and over. Not to mention what the clean up crew had to deal with. See, one thing I don’t point out enough is that I don’t rely solely on what’s on-screen to entertain me - thinking about it in a technical or even “unseen” creative sense adds to my enjoyment. A good example of the “unseen” type would be in a particular Simpsons episode where Homer has propped up the car with a laundry basket in order to change the oil. Now, it’s an average sight gag, but thinking about Homer actually emptying the basket, bringing it outside, and somehow getting it under the car makes me laugh. This would be an example of the technical type - I just picture a few PAs cleaning up gallons of fake blood, ruining their shoes... heh.
I also liked how the movie inadvertently played a trick on me. As I mentioned before, actor Erik Palladino bears a resemblance, both in look and in acting style, to Jeremy Sisto, both of whom are in this film. So when Palladino’s character pretty much drags the hero guy (the utterly boring Matt Keeslar - this guy’s the Sam Worthington of low budget horror) to the club where he meets the vampires, I suspected that Palladino intentionally brought him there to die, working with his “brother” Sisto (who is the main villain, the one with the horrid accent). But nope! Sisto and Palladino’s characters never even share a scene, let alone have any connection. Sleight of hand via casting!
There’s also a scene that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a vampire movie - a failed “turn”. Keeslar bites a girl and then tries to get her to suck his blood (from his own self inflicted bite), but she’s too fucked up to do so, and eventually dies (and as I said, all bites come with showers of blood, so it’s this sort of sad moment with HGL-style gore). The film draws a parallel with drug addiction, which isn’t the most original concept for a vampire movie, but this is the first time I’ve seen one with what’s sort of like an overdose scene.
I was also pleased to see so many horror names in the crew: the editor was the Saw films’ Kevin Greutert, and the DP was none other than Ray Stella, who was the camera operator on Halloween and went on to DP most episodes of Buffy. Plus the nearly ageless Ellie Cornell pops up in a brief role, and despite his horrid Euro accent here, Sisto is always welcome in a horror film. I wasn’t as big of a fan of the shaki-cam style though - it was very erratic and largely unnecessary. As I’ve said before, there’s more to it than simply jerking the camera around, which is pretty much what this looks like, as opposed to adding something to the story the way Paul Greengrass or Peter Berg excel at.
So there’s a lot to like, but “adding your own spin” to a unique movie like Near Dark doesn’t quite work as well as it would for an oft-used plot like Dracula or whatever, which left me sort of cold at times. And the finale is sweet, but it doesn’t quite fit with what happens in the five minutes leading up to it (why didn’t they just stay with Sisto?). Thus, we can put this one down as another film that has just as many great ideas as it has generic or largely unmotivated ones.
What say you?
P.S. I deliberately avoided using the filmmaker’s name in the review because the last time I reviewed one of his films he accused me of pirating it (despite the fact that the review contained a lengthy description of the film festival that I saw it at, a year plus prior to its eventual DVD release), which I found insulting. So I’d rather not attract his attention anymore, even if I more or less like the film.