Critics Love Vampire Priest Film

July 31, 2009

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the filmmaker and movie reviewers of “Thirst,” which opened today in select theaters:

This movie, the work of a Korean ex-Catholic, Park Chan-wook, is about a Roman Catholic priest turned vampire. It is strewn with blood and gore, but that hasn’t stopped film critics from loving it.

The Los Angeles Times commended Park for “constructing beautifully composed images of aestheticized violence.” Too bad Mel Gibson didn’t study under Park: when “The Passion of the Christ” was released, the L.A. Times blasted it for its “overwhelming level of on-screen violence.”

The San Francisco Chronicle admitted that “Park dwells on disgusting images, from the priest’s throbbing boils to his sucking of victims’ blood through medical tubes, to gory vomiting and various scenes of bone-smashing violence.” But, wait, “There’s a sense of glee in all the mayhem that helps mitigate the shock effects—at least a bit.” This same newspaper found no glee in Mel’s classic, labeling the violence “numbing.”

Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger liked the “giddily surreal stuff” of Park’s violence, but saw no fun in “The Passion”: he slammed it for showing the crucifixion of Christ in “literally nauseating detail.”

A.O. Scott of the New York Times praised Park for his “undeniable knack for choreographing bloody, sensual set pieces.” Moreover, Scott noted the “elegantly presented servings of sex and gore.” But he chided Mel, saying that he “exploited the popular appetite for terror and gore.” That’s right—Mel never learned how to serve his violence with elegance.

Finally, V.A. Musetto of the New York Post predicted that the “windbags at the right-wing Catholic League” would call the film “Catholic bashing.” Not really. It’s actually junk designed to seduce guys like him into thinking it’s art.

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Looks worth missing.

For those of you that don’t know, the director of that movie is the same director that made “Oldboy” which was highly critically acclaimed when it came out earlier this decade. I saw that film, and I admit it was very well made, but the sex and especially the violence were way over the top and made me dislike the film. And oh yeah there’s the extremely disturbing and morally devoid ending. And from what i’ve read about Thirst, it is even worse than Oldboy. I definitely will not be seeing it.

It would have to depend on how this is treated: if it’s played for shock value, and I have a sinking feeling it may be, that would be a bad thing indeed. I don’t think it’s impossible for there to be a good, watchable movie featuring a vampire priest. One episode of the sadly now defunct TV show “Moonlight” featured a one-scene supporting character who was a priest who turned out to be a vampire. In the anime “Trinity Blood”, the main character, Father Abel Nightroad, appears on the surface to be a twenty-something priest with the innocent and deceptively scatter-brained personality of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown… but in fact, he’s a very powerful vampire and one of the few beings capable of taking down harmful vampires.

A lot of times in recent vampire fiction, vampirism is treated less like a fully supernatural thing and more like a disease of some kind or a condition brought on by a virus transmitted by a vampire (usually by the vampire draining someone’s blood either completely or almost completely and then having the person drink some of the vampire’s blood). There’s even a rare blood disease, porphyria, which is sometimes thought of as the inspiration behind this idea, since it causes a person to become very sensitive to bright light and some people with it have been known to become momentarily psychotic and try to bite and/or drink the blood of other people. If you’re writing a story and handling vampirism this way, ie. as a disease, then it wouldn’t be out of the question for a priest to be “turned”, most likely by force, since priests are, after all, still human males with the same physiology as the next one. The question is how the story is handled and how the character reacts to his new form of existence. The norm these days in vampire literature is “the friendly neighborhood vampire”, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for someone, say, to write a story where a priest working among vampires like Father Damien among the lepers, is forcibly turned by some unfriendly vampire and then has to make some adjustments to accomodate the change that took place.

I never heard of the movie, but now I’m interested and will see it.

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