The Thirsty Dead (1974)

APRIL 26, 2011


There are always a couple movies in the horror budget packs that stretch the limits of what can be considered a horror movie, and I hope that The Thirsty Dead represents the most extreme example from the Pure Terror pack. If this movie was any less “horror” I’d have to watch something else for the day. More often than not it just resembles a particularly dull episode of Star Trek, except without Shatner or Nimoy around to bring the fun.

You know those episodes where the Trek crew would land on a planet, come across some folks, find out their way of living didn’t jive with theirs, and then either kill or reform them? This movie is basically about one of those planets, except before the crew ever found them. You have this cult kidnapping women and draining them of their blood to live forever, and nothing happens to them - they're not stopped, or even given a fine for their actions. One of their higher-ups dies, but he’s sort of the obligatory sympathetic one who will turn against the folks he has been living/working with for a long time in order to help someone he just met. The rest of the cult folks, including the evil female leader, are left alive at the end, and will presumably resume kidnapping women and taking their blood as soon as the coast is clear.

And if you’re wondering why I thought of Star Trek, just take a look at these screenshots:

Yeah, doesn’t exactly scream horror, does it? The score is pretty Trek-like too, which doesn't help. There are really only two sequences in the movie where I knew I was watching a horror flick. One was early on, as our heroine is trapped in a sewer and trying to avoid being taken (spoiler: she fails). Obviously we know how it will play out or else there’s no movie, but it’s still a decent little chase scene, and makes good use of the sewer locale (read: she gets scared by rats). The other is near the end, when the shriveled, zombie-like women who have been drained of blood start striking back at the cult, crawling out of their cages and swarming the place. And this occurs with about 20 minutes to go, so I was excited about a Day of the Dead type finale, with the audience cheering on the zombies as they tore apart the evil humans. But there’s no such luck here – the “zombies” cease attacking and actually run away at the first real sign of opposition (a guy waving a torch), and their entire “mutiny” ends seconds later. Lame.

And that’s the whole problem with the movie: there’s no tension or danger. Our four kidnapped heroines never really seem upset with their predicament (one almost seems to welcome it), and the cult doesn’t “make an example” and kill one of them early on in order to raise the stakes. In fact, they don’t kill ANY of them; only one of the four dies and it’s more or less her own fault, falling off a ledge as she fights with the main girl. And the cult dude is way too pleasant and flowery to be menacing even BEFORE he “turns” (plus he looks like the dark haired dude from Air Supply, which meant I spent the entire movie hoping he’d bust out “Sweet Dreams” or something).

Plus the ending is just a total anti-climax; the girls escape thanks to a guy in a jeep that happened to be driving by (the sight of a car after an hour of Trek-y looking costumes and such actually disoriented me a bit), and then they try to bring authorities to the cult’s lair, but can’t find them. That’s it. No fight, not even a minor victory. It’s fine to have the evil folks get away at the end, but you have to offer some kind of triumphant moment for the heroines (and no, simply escaping doesn’t count, since most of the cult members weren’t even trying to chase them). Take Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – as it is a prequel, they can’t really kill anyone, but they at least have the Jordana Brewster character cause some serious injuries to them, offering the audience a bit of a crowd-pleasing moment. And then she dies, which also would have been acceptable here. At least if the cult killed them all, I could be like “Wow, grim ending.” But this isn’t grim OR satisfactory, it just sort of stops.

It’s also way too melodramatic. The girls argue like they’re in a soap opera, the main girl and the cult dude talk about their feelings and such... even the cult member squabbles seem like they were taken from Dynasty or something. For a group of people who need blood to survive, you’d think they’d cause bodily harm more often instead of just yammering on and on or making angry eyes at someone (and then yammering on and on). Who the hell was the audience for this movie? My only guess would be that it worked as a nice transitional piece for Trek fans who were moving on to Guiding Light.

Oddly, this is like the best transfer I've seen from the Creek in ages; letterboxed transfer, crystal clear image, clear sound... the type of thing I wish I saw all the time on here. So why couldn't it be for a movie I actually like? When I really like the movie, it looks like mush (i.e. Cathy's Curse). I can't win.

What say you?


  1. I found this film mildly amusing simply for how unexciting the entire thing was. I kept wanting the heroine to take off that silly gold chain with the spiky ornament that hooded dude was wearing and use it to beat up half the cast. Oh well....

  2. You definitely hit the point when mentioning that it was built & shot like a Star Trek episode. I personally found the score to sound more like Jerry Goldsmith's 1968 Planet Of The Apes tho.


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