Thirst: Special Edition (US - DVD)
Gabe starts a row of Aussie horror re-issues with a very strange vampire film.
Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri) is a successful executive (I guess?), who leads a pretty charmed life until she’s kidnapped by a bloodthirsty cult and taken to a remote village. While there she’s mostly treated like royalty, because according to the cult’s prophecies she must fulfil her destiny by marrying their leader and helping them quench their eternal thirst for blood.
Thirst is without a doubt one of the oddest vampire films I’ve ever seen, and at every odd turn it is exceedingly Australian in tone and look. I’m not going to call it a ‘good’ film, but it’s a novel experience, despite a lot of visual and thematic call-backs to other horror films. At our base we’ve got a Rosemary’s Baby port—an innocent, successful, modern woman finds herself pursued by a strange cult. The cultists here are modern vampires in search of their queen rather than Satanists in assisting in the birth of the Antichrist, but the sentiments and escalating tortures are the same. The basic theme of both films is inescapable fate, and an impossibility to trust anyone but yourself.
Mia Farrow wasn’t a total whelp in Rosemary’s Baby, but Thirst lead Kate Davis is a very self reliant and surprisingly quick witted victim, which gives the floaty narrative a solid backing and reason to root for our heroine. Unfortunately, in apparent attempts to channel Barbara Steele and Jessica Harper (circa Suspiria), Davis’ overall performance is hilariously hammy. I honestly kind of respect the actress for pulling more oddball facial expressions than any actor since Herbert Lom, but it’s hard not to giggle through her every on-screen moment. The rest of the cast is filled out with genre standbys sitting at their most subtle, especially notoriously ham-fisted Henry Silva and David Hemmings, so things mostly even out.
The thing that will endear and repel an even number of viewers is director Rod Hardy’s dreamy sense of direction, and the film’s oddball mix of traditional gothic and late ‘70s chic (and by ‘chic’ I of course mean ugly as sin). There are some genuinely disturbing sequences of the human cattle being ‘juiced’ in stark white halls, but for the most part Thirst isn’t a very scary film, it’s more of an ‘interesting’ film. It would’ve been nice for the plot to concern itself with the deeper intricacies of the sort of Eloy and Morlock relationship the modern vampires and their cattle share, and perhaps a better explanation of why exactly the descendent of Batholry was a needed recruit, but I suppose we should allow the filmmakers a bit of mystery in their fantasy horror story.
This disc marks Synapse Entertainment's first release of Thirst, but Elite Entertainment apparently released it as part of a Aussie horror three-pack (which included Patrick and Strange Behavior, which Synapse are also releasing soon). From what I can gather both releases are presented in anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 widescreen. Elite’s releases have always looked pretty good, and the Synapse box art says nothing of any ‘remastering’, so I’m going to assume that the discs utilize the same transfers. The transfer in question is by no means perfect, but it’s very colourful, surprisingly clean, and reasonably sharp in detail. Grain is omnipresent, but most of it matches the colouring behind it enough as to not create any real annoyance. Skin tones often appear a little too red, but the hideous late ‘70s house sets are lively with reasonably noiseless colours, the gothic structures are effectively warm, and the Sci-Fi sets are pretty cleanly white. There is some print damage and artefacts, and some odd focus issues along the edges of indoor wide shoots.
I’m again assuming there has been no change in audio mastering since Elite’s original release, which was also presented in the original mono. There’s nothing for me to complain about with the DVD production, as this is about as clear and warm a sound as we can expect, but there are some shortcomings in the original mix. Most of these ‘problems’ concern really flimsy foley and catalogue effects which match the on-screen action timing-wise, but not impact-wise, and this is a problem most B-genre fans should expect from smaller and older productions. Brian May’s (no, not the guy from Queen, the guy who did Mad Max) full bodied, but unfortunately dated score sounds very warm on the track, and I noticed no distortion during heavy strings or brass.
Our big boy extra here is a commentary track featuring director Hardy and producer Anthony I. Ginnane. The fellas speak to us in stereo Aussie accents (Hardy on the left and Ginnane on the right), running down mostly the more overarching shooting process, and specifics on mostly actors and locations. There are a few stops for mention of story or missed opportunities, but mostly the track sounds more like one of those scholar tracks based all on dates and facts, so it does drag a little. Basically very informative though.
Apparently the Elite release carried the same commentary track, so fans looking for something different are going to have to make do with an isolated version of May’s alternately jazzy, gothic, and ‘70s TV series score, some bios, trailers and TV Spots, and a photo gallery. The isolated score’s volume levels seem to mostly match those of the finished film, perhaps even a bit quieter.
The Thirst was definitely more entertaining than I expected going into the experience, and because this isn’t exactly art-house filmmaking (though there is a touch of thought put into the art of the film) that’s really enough to recommend it. I’m not going to recommend it huge, but I’m recommending it. The A/V is up to Synaps’s usual quality standards, and the extras, though minimal, are just fine.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 28th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English, Spanish
Extras: Director/Producer Commentary, Bios, Isolated Score, Trailers, TV Spots, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rod Hardy
Cast: Chantal Contouri, Shirley Cameron, Henry Silva, David Hemmings
Length: 93 minutes