Thirst DVD review

An Aussie vampire movie from the end of the 70s, does creature feature Thirst manage to deliver?

Thirst

The Australian vampire film isn’t the most productive of genres. ‘Nonexistent’ would probably be the most accurate word to describe it. This, then, is the first way that Thirst (1979) goes against the grain – by actually being a yarn about the outback undead – but definitely not the only one. Hallucinatory, bizarre and down-right silly, this low budget creature feature gets full marks for the originality of its premise, but is defiantly bottom of the class where it counts: enjoyment.

The story focuses on Kate, Chantal Contouri (whose doe-eyes and big smile give her more than a passing resemblance to that other cute-as-buttons Aussie pixie-poppet, Kylie Minogue), the descendent of some ancient vampire aristocrat. Kate is kidnapped by a shady organisation called The Brotherhood and subjected to some increasingly extreme mental conditioning, to release her inner-bloodsucker…so far, so droll.

Thirst’s spark of originally comes from how it re-imagines the vampire. The Brotherhood is more like a cult, farming humans as livestock to combat the spread of impure blood, their use of capitalism, psychology and mental conditioning is intriguing, too. And, when taken into the social context of 1979 – the Jonestown Massacre of ’78 and the rise of globalisation – there appears to be pretty savvy representations of late 70s concerns. Unfortunately, this appears to be purely coincidence. As the story (or lack of) starts to unfold, realisation dawns that any sort of deeper narrative relevance is pure fluke – this is hokum of the highest order.

To add a little global box office appeal, director Rod Hardy roped in jobbing actor Henry Silva (Buck Rogers) and David Hemmings, who little over a decade before was staring in one of British cinemas most iconic films of all time, Blow Up. Hemmings, in particular, sleepwalks his way through the role, probably more concerned with a quick paycheck and a nice couple of weeks in Australia than anything else. TV actress Shirley Cameron puts in a nicely OTT performance as Mrs. Baker, the most sinister of the villains.

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Perhaps the film’s biggest failing, though, is Contouri herself, who can’t act for toffee. Being a ‘scream queen’ will never be the most demanding of roles, but Contouri seems incapable of ‘doing’ shocked convincingly, and end ups giving the camera countless self-conscious glances that border on romantic irony. The effect is like watching some whiney trophy wife throwing a huff, rather than a woman who has been abducted and told she is actually a vampire.

The filmmakers also seem to think that they can paper over the lack-of-scariness cracks by sloshing a load of fake blood around and creating a sense of suspense through incoherent dream sequences. Oh, and the vampire are actually rubbish – they have no supernatural powers and need fang-dentures to bite anyone (is this why The Brotherhood exploited the market for pre-packaged blood?).

All this leads to Thirst being about as thematically appealing as a ham and cheese sandwich with extra ham.

DVD extras include a documentary, which is basically an interview with the producer, some alternate trailers and not much else. A pretty poor showing all round, but not entirely unexpected.

Film:

1 stars
Disc:
1 stars

Rating:

1 out of 5