Amoeblog

No Atheists in the Afterlife? Thirst (2009)

Posted by Charles Reece, August 16, 2009 11:30pm | Post a Comment
thirst poster

A fantastic adaptation of Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin. Not that I've ever read any Zola, mind you, but I've read about him. Maybe after I've finished working my way through the entire output of the 19th century Russian realists, I'll be ready. If only Zola had featured more vampires in his stories .... Well, Chan-Wook Park knows how to get me interested in realism, at least -- same as the Russians -- with ideological discussions of atheism.

Sang-hyeon is a Catholic priest with a martyr complex or strong death drive (amounts to the same thing, I suppose), who plays guinea pig in a macabre experiment to help doctors find a cure for a virus that's particularly dangerous to Korean men. He's the only one to survive the voluntary infection, due to a  transfusion using vampire blood. The catch is that he now needs to feed on normal human blood to keep from sweating his own and breaking out in disfiguring boils. Initially, he's racked by guilt over his bodily urges, which leads to his sucking on a comatose patient's IV and a fellow priest, Noh, who has a more sanguine attitude about the vampire virus. Sang-hyeon sees vampirism as a loss of humanity, whereas Noh sees it as a gift, and a potential cure for his blindness. Due to his miracle cure, the vampire picks up a religious following of Catholics who see him as another messiah, parallel to that other popular tale of transfiguration. Is he a vampire who walks like a man, or man who acts like a vampire?

buffy angel kiss  twilight isabella edward

Despite the similarities, Thirst doesn't belong to the "vegetarian" vampirism that Buffy made popular and can now be seen in Twilight. It was easy to sympathize with Buffy's beau, because when Angel did evil deeds, it was as the soulless Angelus, who constituted a separate identity (even if the two entities shared the same body and memories, they certainly had no control over what the other did). There's no identity switcheroo in Twilight, but the good vampire Edward is able to survive on animal blood (see 'carouche'). Angel was capable of that, too, having lived on rats for many years after regaining his soul. Furthermore, the two diegeses share a supernaturally enforced Victorian restraint, since the vampires get real thirsty for their lovers when sex is involved. Taking blood and sex out of the equation pretty much makes hash out of vampires, since they're reduced to a more pathetic version of us, but with superpowers. Instead, Park's film is closer in its themes to another vampire show that sometimes gets lumped into the vegetarian subgenre, True Blood.

true blood bill sookie thirst sang hyeon

Maybe because it's on HBO or because it's not written by a Mormon, but True Blood manages to defang the mythology without violating it (although the hamfisted erotic dialog comes close). Here vampires keep their sanguinary sexual desires, are responsible for previous slaughters, and have to choose to live off of synthetic human blood (like only shopping the frozen food aisle). Making a somewhat analogous case to Peter Singer's animal rights argument, Southern gentleman/-vampire Bill Compton has come to view humans as deserving of the same rights as his own kind, since we're capable of the same feelings as he, if not moreso. Whereas True Blood's moral questioning is basically utilitarian, Thirst's is faith-based. The divine image has been transmogrified into a distorted mirror, so is Sang-hyeon still obligated to God's favored creature? If the vampire is nothing more than pure carnality, then its moral status is that of all the other animals not given the lead in the story of Eden. Scorpions aren't being immoral when they strike.

thirst tae-joo kang-woo

Thirst's vampiric version of the 19th century nihilist is Tae-joo, an orphaned girl who came under the care of the domineering Lady Ra and her spoiled, sickly boy, Kang-woo. Rather than being raised as the boy's adopted sister, Tae-joo became his caretaker and wife. Sang-hyeon was a childhood friend to the family and, post-transformation, meets up with them again when Ra comes begging for a miracle to cure her son. Between games of mah-jongg with the family and friends, the priest and the wife begin to slip away for bouts of hedonism that's erotic in a way the metalhead couple making out in a mall could appreciate. Based on how she grew up, Tae-joo doesn't see much that's special in humanity, so wants nothing more than to leave it all behind by being turned. After a series of sinful events, including the plan to kill Kang-woo, Sang-hyeon grants her the salvation she desires. That's when he discovers that some vampires are more Darwinian than others. She's pure survival-of-the-fittest with nothing filling up the hole of faith. Humans are reduced to the status of actors -- that is, cattle -- and she's the only director that matters. Feeling himself drawn to the abyss, with his monstrous status of being nothing but an animal, only with the ungodly power to upset the divine heirarchy, Sang-hyeon can see no other moral choice than self-immolation -- and, thus, the movie's central conflict. Obviously, the couple hasn't read much utilitarianism or other atheistic moral philosophies. They might've discovered with Bill that there's more of a connection to humanity than the forced choice between nihilism and theistic middle-management allows.

A Horrible Month

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, August 13, 2009 12:40am | Post a Comment
I can't believe what an amazing month it is for horror fans in Los Angeles! Here's a list of the films that the local rep theaters are showing over the next couple of weeks.



New Bev
erly Cinema
7165 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2548
(323) 938-4038

-August 14th Count Yorga, Vampire & The Lost Boys
midnite movie- Midnight Son
-August 15th Velvet Vampire & The Hunger
midnite movie-Halloween II ('81 orig)
-August 18th Patrick & Harlequin
-August 28th & 29th Evil Dead trilogy
-Sept 5th midnite movie- the Entity

Art Theatre
2025 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90814-1001
(562) 438-5435

-August 14th Sick Girl

Aero Theatre
1328 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403-1710
(310) 260-1528

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Novelty rap and the harsh realities of adolescence -- Freddy Rap and other strange happenings of 1987

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 10, 2009 10:44am | Post a Comment
Back in 1987 and '88, before Chucky and the Leprechaun came along and divided the loyalties of urban cineastes along racial lines, Freddy and the hip-hop community were hand in metal-clawed glove. It was the year Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was released. Why did Freddy rap occur then and not sooner? There had been a building sense of unease for several years, as evinced in Rockwell's 1984 hit "Somebody's Watching Me" and Dana Dane's 1985 hit "Nightmares." It was the climax of the Cold War, after all. Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was widely viewed as the best entry in the series and was the most successful until FVJ in 2003. It may've just been me, but I also think 1987 was just a weird, wonderful year.

nightmare on elm street

For me, it was full of confusion and mystery. I'd grown somewhat comfortable with my classmates over the seven years of elementary school, but in 1987, I was off to junior high. The air on the school bus was a gaseous psychotropic cocktail of aquanet and Jheri Curl. When the smoke cleared, I found myself at Jefferson Jr High, in the middle of town. The formerly all-white school, my black Social Studies teacher informed us, had been the domain of the devil and his wife (a witch) when he was growing up during segregation. I later figured out her reasons for creating that myth, but it might as well have been true to me at the time. Junior High, in contrast to the relative peace of elementary school, was a trial by fire where violence could and frequently did break out as the pecking order got sorted out. I quickly learned to never use the restrooms. There was tremendous pressure to adopt a sort of uniform with classmates scrutinizing and passing judgment on hair, jackets, shirts, pants, shoes, musical tastes, &c. Brands and styles of (generally tightrolled) jeans (something I'd honestly never thought about) were cyphers that revealed more about their wearer's personality and background than their cracking voices ever could.

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Technophilia, The Trailer Hitch of Realism: Previewing Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Despicable Me, and Alice in Wonderland

Posted by Charles Reece, July 26, 2009 09:43am | Post a Comment
One thought that never crosses my mind when watching a classic Bugs cartoon is how it could be  improved with a richer palette of colors, more shading for 3-dimensional effect and a better use casperof perspective -- you know, so it would appear as if this anatomically incorrect bunny might actually exist in our world. Call me crotchety, but I don't like aesthetics being reduced to technology. Just because the average Macbook now has millions of colors at its disposal, this shouldn't matter a whit to a modern audience watching an old Chuck Jones cartoon. But it does, if the average CGI-toon that dominates production is any indication.

When Casper the Friendly Ghost received the CGI treatment, he became a true monstrosity, a virtually embodied horror, the mishapen spectral remant of a literalized infanticide. Yet, it was in a movie aimed at kids and no one seemed to mind. If he'd been covered in blood, I suspect it would've been a different story. In The Philosophy of Horror, Noël Carroll suggests two major defining features of the monster proper: that (1) the creature be threatening and (2) it be impure. Now, it's probably not much of an overgeneralization to suggest few feel threatened by Casper, not even by his 3D deformity. But he's clearly impure in two ways: First, obviously, he's undead, kind of like a zombie, but one who's rational and apparently takes showers. That is, he violates the cognitive categories we have for what living and dead bodies are supposed to behave like -- mixes the contents. Second, and perhaps less obviously, in the 3D version, he is a violation of the formal abstraction that was part of his 2D cartoon body. This formal impurity wouldn't have existed had the animators decided to go with a realistic form for their adaptation, something like the ghosts in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners.

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Italian Grindhouse @ Egyptian Theatre

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, July 10, 2009 07:15pm | Post a Comment
The Egyptian is hosting a short Italian Grindhouse festival these next 7 days! Yesterday featured the legendary Cemetary Man as well as Argento's Opera. Fortunately for those that missed this double, both are available at Amoeba. Tonight the Cinematheque is showing a Carroll Baker double with Paranoia (Orgasmo) & A Quiet Place to Kill (A Drug Called Helen). Over the next week they'll cover sword and sandal territory, spaghetti westerns, psychedellic giallo & italo-crime. Films featuring Edwige Fenech, John Cassavetes, Klaus Kinski, Steve Reeves, Christopher Lee & many more favorites. Many not on DVD!

Compete Calendar here.

Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Blvd. (@ Las Palmas)







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