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Korean theatrical poster
Hangul 박쥐
RR Bakjwi
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by Park Chan-wook,
Ahn Soo-Hyeon
Written by Park Chan-wook,
Jeong Seo-Kyeong
Starring Song Kang-ho,
Kim Ok-bin,
Shin Ha-kyun
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Jeong Jeong-hun
Editing by Kim Sang-Beom,
Kim Jae-Beom
Studio Moho Films
Distributed by CJ Entertainment,
Universal Pictures,
Focus Features
Release date(s) South Korea:
April 30, 2009
United States:
July 31, 2009 (limited)
Running time 133 minutes,
145 minutes (2009 PIFF)
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget $ 5,000,000
Gross revenue $12,314,672 (worldwide)[1]

Thirst (Korean: 박쥐; Bakjwi; literally: Bat) is a 2009 horror/drama film, written, produced and directed by Park Chan-wook. It is loosely based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola.[2] The film tells the story of a priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment.[3] Park has stated, "This film was originally called "The Bat" to convey a sense of horror. After all, it is about vampires. But it is also more than that. It is about passion and a love triangle. I feel that it is unique because it is not just a thriller, and not merely a horror film, but an illicit love story as well."[4] It is the first mainstream Korean film to feature full-frontal adult male nudity (but not the first-ever commercially-released South Korean film to do so: that accolade goes to the 2006 film No Regret).[5] The film won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.[6]



Sang-hyun is a priest whose free time is spent volunteering at the local hospital and providing ministry to the patients. He is well respected for his unwavering faith and the dedicated service he provides to all those around him, but he secretly suffers from overwhelming feelings of doubt and sadness about living in a world that seems to be drowning in suffering and death.

After getting fed up with the endless cycle of human suffering that the world offers, Sang-hyun volunteers to participate in an experiment to find a vaccine for the deadly Emmanuel Virus (EV) with the hope of saving even one life. Although the experiment fails disastrously and Sang-hyun is infected with the seemingly fatal disease, he makes a complete and rapid recovery after receiving a blood transfusion.

News of his marvelous recovery is quickly spread to the devout parishioners of Sang-hyun’s congregation, and they begin to believe that the man has a miraculous gift for healing. Soon, thousands more people flock to Sang Hyun’s services. Among the new churchgoers are Kang-woo, Sang-hyun’s childhood friend, and his family. Later on, Kang-woo invites his old friend to join the weekly mahjong night at his house, and there, Sang-hyun finds himself precariously drawn to Kang-woo’s wife, Tae-ju. Suddenly, Sang-hyun relapses into his illness; he coughs up blood and passes out. The next day however, he opens his eyes in dire need of shelter from the sweltering sunlight; thus he has become a vampire.

At first, Sang-hyun feels a newfound vigor and is energized by his insistent bodily desires, but soon, he is aghast to find himself sucking down blood from a comatose patient in the hospital. After attempting to kill himself, he finds that he is drawn back to the taste of human blood against his will. To make matters worse, the symptoms of E.V. have come roaring back, and they only seem to go away when he has drunk blood. Desperately trying to avoid committing a murder, he resorts to stealing blood transfusion packs from the hospital.

Tae-ju, now living with her ill husband and her over-protective mother-in-law, Lady Ra, leads a dreary and unhappy life. She finds herself drawn to Sang-hyun and his odd new physicality, and his inability to resist his desires. The two begin an affair, but when Tae-ju first discovers the truth about Sang-hyun’s new lifestyle, she retreats in fear. When Sang-hyun pleads with her to run away with him she turns him down, suggesting that they kill her husband instead. [4]

When Sang-hyun's superior at the monastery requests some vampire blood so that his eyes may heal and he may see the world before dying, Sang-hyun, disgusted, flees his position at the monastery. He moves into Lady Ra's house so that he may secretly be with Tae-ju.

As their affair continues, Sang-hyun notices signs of physical abuse on Tae-ju and assumes her husband is the cause, a suspicion which she sheepishly confirms. It is at that point that Sang-hyun decides to kill Kang-woo, which he does during a fishing trip with the couple. He pulls Kang-woo into the water and claims that he placed the body inside a cabinet in a house at the bottom of the lake, and afterwards placed a rock on the body so it would not float up.

A police investigation ensues, but Sang-hyun claims that Kang-woo became drunk, fell out of the boat, and drowned on his own. Lady Ra drinks herself into shock after her son's death and remains in a completely paralyzed state for the remainder of the film. In the meantime, Sang-hyun and Tae-ju are haunted by terrifying hallucinations of Kang-woo's drowned and bloated corpse, as he suddenly appears lying in their bed, in a cabinet in the basement, or physically between the two of them as they make love. When Tae-ju inadvertedly lets it slip that Kang-woo never abused her, Sang-hyun is enraged because he had been resisting the urge to kill for so long and only killed Kang-woo in order to protect Tae-ju. Teary-eyed, Tae-ju asks Sang-hyun to kill her and let her return to her husband. He obliges by snapping her neck, but after feeding on her blood for several minutes, decides that he does not want to be alone forever and feeds her corpse some of his own blood. She awakens as a vampire. Lady Ra, knocked to the floor by a seizure, witnesses everything.

The vampire couple remodel the house, painting all walls white and installing bright fluorescent lighting (as a replacement for the sunlight they will never see). Tae-ju quickly shows herself to be a remorseless monster, killing indiscriminantly in order to feed, while Sang-hyun acts more conservatively, not killing unless he has to and trying to persuade Tae-ju to do the same. Their conflicting modes of conduct result in a chase across the rooftops and a short battle. Some time later, at the weekly mahjong game (with Kang-woo's friends), Lady Ra manages to communicate through blinking and scratching hangul characters into the table with the one finger that is capable of moving. She conveys to the friends that Sang-hyun and Tae-ju killed her son. Tae-ju quickly disposes of two of them by breaking their necks, and Sang-hyun appears to eliminate the third, with all three being fed on shortly after. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sang-hyun tells Tae-ju that they must flee, else be caught and found guilty of multiple murders. Before leaving with her, he makes a visit to the camp of worshippers who idolize him as the miracle survivor of the virus, where he appears to rape a girl. The worshippers see this and chase him out with rocks and sticks, no longer holding him in any sort of high status.

Sang-hyun then places Lady Ra in his car, and, along with Tae-ju, begins driving into the night. We then see the third friend, back at the house, getting up and escaping (apparently not killed by Sang-hyun). Upon waking up from a nap in the car, Tae-ju realizes that Sang-hyun has driven to a desolate field with no cover from the imminent sunlight. He snaps the key off in the ignition and throws it off a cliff, into the ocean. Realizing his plan to have them both burn when dawn breaks, Tae-ju tries to hide in the trunk, an attempt that is foiled when Sang-hyun rips the trunk lid off and throws it, also, into the ocean. She then attempts to hide under the car, but Sang-hyun pushes it off her. Resigning herself to her fate, she joins him on the hood of the car, and both are painfully burnt to ash by the sun, all as Lady Ra watches from the back seat of the car. The film ends with the worn pair of shoes that Sang-hyun had once given Tae-ju falling to the ground as the bones of her feet crumble away at the ankles.


  • Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun
  • Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju
  • Shin Ha-kyun as Kang-woo
  • Kim Hae-sook as Lady Ra, Tae-ju's mother-in-law
  • Eriq Ebouaney as Immanuel
  • Hwang-woo Seul-hye as Girl with a whistle
  • Mercedes Cabral as Evelyn
  • Song Young-Chang as Seung-dae
  • Oh Dal-su as Young-du
  • Choi Hee-jin as Nurse
  • Ra Mi-ran as Nurse Yu
  • Choi Jong-ryeol as Old man


Thirst received generally favorable review from critics on its original release. The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 82% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 92.[7] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 72, based on 21 reviews.[8] Prominent film critic Roger Ebert awarded Thirst three out of a possible four stars, citing that the director was "todays most successful director of horror films."[9] The website IGN awarded the film three and a half out of five stars and said "Thirst may not be the greatest vampire movie ever made, but Park's willingness to try something different makes it a decidedly fresh take on the genre."[10]

Box office

The film earned 1,174,224,500 on its first day of release and gained more than ₩5,612 million on that three-day weekend. On May 3, Thirst debuted at number one at the South Korean Box office and grossed ₩6,786,388,000 with more than 1 million tickets sold nationwide.[11]

DVD release

Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a region 1 DVD of Thirst on November 17, 2009.[12] No extras are included, but the film was produced in anamorphic widescreen with Korean DD5.1 Surround audio and subtitles in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.


  1. ^ Thirst tops Korean box office over holiday weekend, Screen Daily, 2009/05/05. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  2. ^ "THIRST (BAK-JWI, 2009)—Interview with Park Chan-wook". Twitch. Retrieved August 22, 2009.  
  3. ^ "Bloody Disgusting Horror — "Thirst (Kr)" Movie Info". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved August 19, 2009.  
  4. ^ a b "Thirst". Retrieved August 19, 2009.  
  5. ^ Carpenter, Cassie. "Quenching His 'Thirst'". Back Stage, August 3, 2009. Retrieved on September 26, 2009.
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Thirst". Festival Cannes. Retrieved May 9, 2009.  
  7. ^ "Thrist - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved October 23, 2009.  
  8. ^ "Thirst (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved October 23, 2009.  
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 13, 2009). "Thirst". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 18, 2009.  
  10. ^ Utichi, Joe (May 15, 2009). "Cannes 09: Thirst Review". IGN UK. Retrieved August 18, 2009.  
  11. ^ "Thirst". Retrieved August 19, 2009.  
  12. ^ THIRST Comes to DVD November 17th, Horror Movies, 2009/09/21. Retrieved September 25, 2009.

External links

Preceded by
Il Divo
Jury Prize, Cannes
tied with Fish Tank
Succeeded by

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