Monday, March 17, 2014

Movie Monday: Thirst

This week's Movie Monday is the 1979 Ozploitation horror classic Thirst!

I like to think I'm fairly well-versed when it comes to horror films; sure there are many I haven't seen, but I had never even heard of Thirst before its DVD/Blu-Ray release this month, so once I read up on its plot it was a slam-dunk. How did this movie escape my notice for so long?

Shot in Australia, Thirst is about  a young woman named Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), who seems to have it all: a successful career, a nice house, not to mention a super-hunky 70s-style boyfriend:
But her life turns into a living nightmare when she is kidnapped by a strange shadowy organization known as The Brotherhood. Kate is locked up on some massive compound, we learn that The Brotherhood is nothing less than a cabal of vampires (played by the British David Hemmings, American Henry Silva, and Aussie actors Shirley Cameron and Max Phipps)! They want Kate because she is a descendant of the notoriously bat-sh*t Elizabeth Bathory, and want to draft her into the lifestyle of the vampire!

Kate, as you might imagine, wants nothing to do with this, and tries to escape, but nothing doing: The Brotherhood's operation is enormous: it houses hundreds of vampires, who consider themselves the aristocracy, as well as thousands of "blood cows", half-dead victims who are used as sustenance for the vampires:
As The Brotherhood puts Kate through one mind-screw after another, trying to break her down mentally and physically, we learn that there are thousands of vampires out there, and The Brotherhood supplies them all with blood, shipped in cartons like milk and carefully checked for quality and taste--they even run tours of the dairy, featuring vampire tourists snapping pics while the cows are drained of their blood. Ick!

For most of the its run time, Thirst eschews cheap scares and gory scenes of bloodsucking. The Brotherhood is run like a typical, boring, company, except for the fact that their talking about death, blood, and mind-control (so maybe it's like Goldman-Sachs in that way). Henry Silva is his usual weird self, with strange line readings and a perpetual smirk that seems to suggest he's in on a joke the rest of us are not.

Kate's only "friend", if I may use that word at all, is Dr. Fraser (Hemmings), who seems the most squeamish about putting her through the mental hell the rest of them are almost gleeful over. But he is, after all, part of a vampire cabal, so everything's relative (in this movie, literally in some cases). You can't help but feel deep pity for Kate, since The Brotherhood seems too big to fail, and this being the 1970s you know a downer ending is probably on the menu.

There are some moments where Thirst threatens with breaking the Goofy Meter: whenever someone vamps out their eyes turn red while standing perfectly still for about a solid minute, which just looks silly. Plus there's an action scene that seems woefully out of place, but I must admit features an extended, nasty death scene that I enjoyed for the imagination it took to conceive and shoot it.
There are so many dream sequences or hallucinations that at a certain point Thirst loses that sense of impending doom, because you're never certain whether what you're watching is really happening. But it still packs a nightmarish punch, presenting a chamber of horrors that seems to be operating right under all our noses, right out there in the daylight. *Shudder*

P.S. Check out the movie poster up top, featuring a vampire wearing a classic Bela Lugosi-esque cloak, something that never comes close to happening in the movie. I guess the producers were worried Thirst was a little too different from the standard vampire flick for average audiences.

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