Thirst (1979)

How familiar are you with your ancestry? In this day and age, it isn’t as important as it may have been historically, right? That is unless you are Kate Davis, the female lead in Day 12’s selection of 31 Days of Horror, Thirst! Turns out her lineage is very important, indeed; maybe not to her, but definitely to a group of elite aristocrats who need her DNA to bolster their power over society! 
Mrs. Barker tries (for like five seconds) to convince Kate to come to the dark side.

Mrs. Barker tries (for like five seconds) to convince Kate to come to the dark side.

To you and me, it would seem Miss Davis (Chantal Contouri) is just like any other ordinary person, although she is perhaps a little more well-off than most. She works hard, and has earned the extended vacation she’s about to take. Unfortunately her boyfriend Derek is unable to go with her, but she’s an independent woman of today and will enjoy her vacation nonetheless. But of course, she never makes it to her destination; on her way out the door she is kidnapped and taken to a remote complex in the Australian countryside where horrible things happen…

After coming to, Kate is informed that she is related to the one and only Elizabeth Báthory (The Countess’s second appearance this October). Her bloodline affords her a cushy spot atop “The Brotherhood,” an elite and secret society of aristocratic bloodsuckers. If only she could let go of her pesky morals, she could join forces with other aristocratic, bloodthirsty families to create a powerhouse that the anemic proletariat could never overcome.
They're even getting Kate's cat into the mix.

They’re even getting Kate’s cat into the mix.

Unfortunately for The Brotherhood, Kate is a headstrong and independent woman, and converting her will not be an easy task. The higher-ups of the group are fighting about the best way to help her in changing her mind. Mrs. Barker (Shirley Cameron) favors an extremely aggressive approach, using hallucinatory drugs to achieve her goals. Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings) believes this tactic will be not only very expensive, but may also drive Kate crazy. Both of them try talking sense into Kate, showing her around the “farm” and introducing her to the “blood-cows” (human livestock) that are privileged enough to donate their life force to vampiric royalty. Is Kate strong enough to resist the her inherited Thirst?

Ah, milking the blood-cows. What a privilege!

Ah, milking the blood-cows. What a privilege!

I’ve seen Thirst three times now, and every time I’ve been impressed with it. It is a serious vampire movie that seriously critiques modern society, but I never felt like it was selling ideology. While films like Society and They Live tackle similar territory, they have a hell of a lot more laughs than Thirst does. Usually I’d say that’s a hefty nail in a film’s coffin, but director Rod Hardy really makes it work here. Perhaps part of the reason why it works so well is instead of a usual black and white, poor vs. rich situation, the main conflict is actually between rich folks themselves. This isn’t just a film about rich people literally sucking the life out of the lower classes, it’s also about indoctrinating other rich folks deemed worth to come to their side. That’s what makes this movie a little more interesting to me: it’s not really saying much to show that the aristocracy makes its living (and derives its pleasure) from the lower classes; it’s been that way for centuries. But exploring the infighting between the rich themselves, at least in terms of how the lower classes are treated, is less-covered and more interesting territory.

Bloody chicken!

Bloody chicken!

So, yes, Thirst has a lot to say, and I think it says it well. It also looks great; the special effects (well, okay, the blood) is super-duper, and for the most part not too in-your-face (though perhaps the shower scene is a little bit much… it also explains why I let the water run for a second before hopping in!). There are some genuinely frightening scenes as the good doctors push their psychological agenda on Kate. Watching her constantly tortured expression while also wondering what the hell is going on is a pretty good fright-cocktail, and Contouri does an excellent job of earning my empathy. I do think, though, Shirley Cameron’s Mrs. Barker outshines her with one of the most gleefully evil portrayals I’ve ever seen; a real rich bitch I took an immense pleasure in hating!

Yes, you should see Thirst. If you have any real interest in a different sort of vampire tale, this is your guy. It’s not subtle, but why the hell would you look for a subtle vampire flick?

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