A Catholic priest (Song Kang-ho), yearning to be of greater service to people, volunteers to be a guinea pig in a vaccine test against a deadly virus in Africa... and the vaccine turns him into a vampire.
The plot thickens when the priest returns to South Korea and becomes involved with an unhappy woman (Kim Ok-vin) who feels enslaved by her dopey husband (the priest's childhood friend) and his smothering mom, at which point Thirst becomes something of a film noir, only with a vampire priest as its lovesick dupe. Then it gets really crazy.
I've been a fan of writer/director Park since his breakout film Oldboy, but whereas his four previous features all maintain a devastating emotional impact amidst all the artful compositions, nasty violence, and other eccentricities, it's difficult to ascertain just how seriously one should take Thirst. There are so many insanely over-the-top moments in the movie, and the story doesn't amount to anything very weighty, that it's possible that Park is just having a bloody – very bloody – good time.
Although the film, at 133 minutes, is overlong by at least a quarter hour, it sure doesn't get boring. Fans of last year's great Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In will feel right at home here: this is Twilight with all the sex, all the grossness, and all the cruelty put back in and thrust in your face. It's not nearly as elegant as Let the Right One In – and as I said, I was ultimately disappointed that the story didn't wring me out emotionally like Park's earlier work – but other viewers may find a depth to the film that I couldn't fully appreciate.