Rated: R (for graphic bloody violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content, nudity and language)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: Korean Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Time: 134 minutes
Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2009
DVD Release Date: November 17, 2009
The genre of the vampire picture, really just a sub-forum of horror in general, seems to be going through a real identity crisis. On the one had, you have the hot and ever-brooding vamps, such as Anne Rice’s Lestat or Stephanie Meyer’s Edward or any one of the fifteen trendy vampire shows out there now. On the other had, you have the really damn creepy ones, like Eli from most excellent Let the Right One In and now you can add another alt.vampire to that rank in the form of Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho). In director Park Chan-wook’s latest bloodbath, that much of the precious liquid is actually necessary to the plot, where in Park’s previous films, specifically Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Oldboy it served to shock more than anything else. Here, Sang-hyun starts out as a Roman Catholic priest who debates his beliefs and the preciousness of life with his mentor and monsignor. He volunteers to take part in a vaccination process of a deadly, fairly undefined disease known as EV. Part of the process requires a blood transfusion, and in the process, he is infused with contaminated vampire blood. Sang-hyun dies from the disease, but he is miraculously resurrected. Over the next few days he finds he only hungers for blood, taking hits off other patients IV drips.
Sang-hyun, now being seen as a miracle survivor and imbued with healing powers, is approached by a childhood friend’s mother asking him to pray over her cancer ridden son, Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun). It’s questionable whether Kang-woo really has cancer or one of any other afflictions based on his numerous displayed symptoms. Kang-woo’s wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin) lives a very indentured, submissive lifestyle under Kang-woo and his domineering mother. Tae-ju sees Sang-hyun as a way out as she begins to tempt him physically and emotionally. Once Sang-hyun inadvertently reveals his new nature to Tae-ju, she does what she must to escape her self-proclaimed abuse at the hands of Kang-woo. What follows is a protracted, bloody and violent journey through the deadly sins as faith, belief and life is compromised at every turn.
Park is very well known for indulging violence in any of his pictures. He portrays it as one of life’s necessities and it must be expressed most passionately. In Oldboy, for instance, there is an amazingly protracted fight scene, captured seemingly all in one slow tracking shot, where the main character fights numerous attackers. There’s violence, mayhem and blood all over the place, but it serves the story. While these same things serve the story here, obviously, it just takes forever to move the story along. In watching the picture I was mentally editing down scenes making it a much tighter and compelling picture. All of the actors are good in their roles, infusing each character with enough humanity (or maybe “vampireness”) that we still can relate to their changes even when they become blood sucking fiends (oh, the metaphors that could be drudged up here). Park delivers a visually rich picture, particularly when Sang-hyun and Tae-ju hole up in the whitewashed apartment, and I just wish he had taken some of the run time of the picture and devoted it to more purely visual storytelling. Thirst starts to get me over my bias against all things vampires, just not enough for me to sink my teeth into the genre more than occasionally.
Note: I’m watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
The picture is in its correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. Black levels are good and show a good amount of detail. Detail is excellent allowing us to see many of the smaller background items. The picture exhibits some edge enhancement. Colors are somewhat stylized in the image straying towards cool greens and blues that seem to be at the will of fluorescent lighting. Flesh tones remain accurate even in these lighting conditions. There are not a lot of bold or varying colors, but what is here is acceptable for the environment. Sharpness is good as well.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
I watched the feature with the Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged, which is the only option. There are English subtitles displayed in the image area. Most of the action is in the fronts since a lot of the scenes are dialogue driven. When the surrounds are utilized, primarily for atmospheric effects, they provide a fair surround stage. The liberal use of music in the movie gives us some exceptional stereo imaging, along with a crisp dynamic range. LFE’s are barely used and show some life in the songs. Voices are clear and natural, and ADR is only minimally noticed.
There is no bonus material for this release, unfortunately, as previous incarnations of Park’s discs in other regions have yielded some spectacular multi-disc box sets. There is an impending Blu-ray release scheduled for the UK in the future, but no announced plans for any other DVD or Blu-ray editions domestically.
Bonus Features: 0/*****
quenches my desire for a more intriguing vampire flick instead of the rash of pretty boy vamps we’ve become accustomed to. While the film could be shortened by a few minutes to make a more economic story, Park still delivers an intriguing story with his usual interesting visuals. I only wish we would have gotten some bonus materials with this release.