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The Thirst
cast: Matt Keeslar, Clare Kramer, Adam Baldwin, Serena Scott-Thomas, and Jeremy Sisto

director: Jeremy Kasten

84 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Starz DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Michael Bunning
Maxx (Matt Keeslar) and Lisa (Claire Kramer) are, the audience are told, recovering addicts in a loving, committed relationship. This fact isn't borne out by the behaviour of either of them, but since The Thirst is a low budget vampire movie, that's neither here nor there. The audience aren't actually after continuity or believability.

Maxx tells his A.A. group - in a rather nasty speech about the woman he supposedly loves - that Lisa is working as a stripper ("or dancing, as she calls it," he says, scornfully), and because of her odd behaviour he thinks she is using drugs again. In actual fact she's dying of cancer and hasn't told him (naturally). The audience are treated to a sequence of Lisa stripping with Maxx's spiteful narration telling his listeners how he'll often come home to find the toilet smelling of vomit, which ends with Lisa collapsing on stage, vomiting blood and being whisked off to hospital. While she's in hospital, she meets a mysterious nurse (Serena Scott Thomas) called Mariel who tells her it's all going to be alright. It appears Mariel is wrong though, as Lisa checks herself out of hospital (as Maxx is arguing with one of the other nurses), goes home and commits suicide.

Maxx spirals quickly into depression (represented by a clumsy montage of Maxx sporting more and more dodgy prosthetic facial hair and hugging Lisa's clothes), and one night when his friends drag him to a fetish club to try to cheer him up, he thinks he sees Lisa. She's alive! She can't be, can she? Predictably enough, of course, she can. It turns out that Mariel isn't a nurse after all: she's a vampire. Lisa is now also one of the undead, and she, Mariel and the rest of the vampire 'family' were sizing the club up as a potential buffet. Maxx heads back to the club the next night, finds Lisa just as the vampires begin to feed, is rescued by her and given a choice by Darius, the head of the family: join them or die. Maxx eagerly accepts the offer of eternity with Lisa and is turned into a vampire himself.

Just as all seems rosy though, Maxx and Lisa decide that vampirism is really another form of addiction and that they need to go cold turkey and eradicate the rest of the family. Yawn. The Thirst has five credited writers, two of whom are the producer and director. Seasoned moviegoers may be dispirited by this information, as it usually implies that a quirky, interesting script was turned into something much more clich�d and pedestrian in order to appeal to a wider demographic. Unsurprisingly, this is also the case here (as the viewer finds out in a refreshingly honest commentary).

The original script told a story in which the recovering addict couple find out Lisa is dying and seek out vampirism, accepting that they're going to be addicted to blood for eternity, but deciding that in order to stay together, it will be worth it. The final product, though, is a by-the-numbers blood, tits and ass schlock-fest that stumbles along, suffering from clumsy direction and dreadful dialogue, stealing most of its new plot from other, superior vampire films and woefully under using the cast, most of whom are clearly slumming it here.

On the other hand, The Thirst is a low-budget vampire flick, and fans of the genre demand a very specific type of film: one with plenty of flesh, plenty of blood and plenty of camp acting. The Thirst delivers on all those points, which is a plus for genre fans. Beginning with the very first scene, there's barely a minute goes by without a surgically enhanced pair of breasts either bared or in skimpy lingerie. When the vampires feed, blood by the gallon sprays everywhere, and dreadful prosthetic throats are ripped out, dreadful prosthetic skulls are crushed and dreadful prosthetic eyes are popped with enthusiastic abandon.

As for campy acting, the cast (with the sole exception of the wooden performance Matt Keeslar inflicts on the viewer) are clearly having a whale of a time. The family of vampires give awesomely bizarre, mannered performances: Adam Baldwin plays a cowboy vampire who's basically a pastiche of the character he played in Firefly; Darius (played by Jeremy Sisto) affects several accents, all of them atrocious and delivered with a wink; and Neil Jackson plays a long-dead English Earl whose accent runs the gamut from cut-glass RP to 'cockernee' and in once scene a broad Yorkshire 'ee-by-gum' effort.

Where this DVD shines is in the bonus features. There's a run-of-the-mill photo gallery that isn't worth looking at, a selection of deleted scenes (though all too often it's clear why they were deleted), a commentary with the director and producer, and a PDF file (which needs to be accessed via a computer) containing the script. The script is interesting reading, showing how uneven the joins between the old and the new stories are, and when coupled with the commentary make a very interesting insight into independent film production. The commentary, as previously mentioned, is refreshingly honest: no secret is made of the script's origin, and the 'borrowing' from themes and material from other vampire movies (especially Near Dark and The Hunger) is owned up to without a trace of embarrassment. In fact, the commentary is much more interesting and entertaining than the main feature.

Frankly, it's a shame that the development of The Thirst took the route it did. There's just enough of the original script and story to make you wish you were watching that film (which appears to have been a meditation on love, sacrifice and addiction), and the serious addiction scenes that remain sit awkwardly alongside the generic bloodiness of the final product. If the producer and director had jettisoned the original script and come up with an entirely original effort, it would at least have been a lot of fun, but it's hobbled by its more intelligent and thoughtful origins. It's one for real fans of low-budget horror only.
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