Over the years a few heady filmmakers have tried to redefine the idea of Vampirism, likening the affliction to that of an all-consuming addiction. It’s an interesting idea and one that is rife with dramatic possibilities. THE THIRST is that kind of feral animal—it’s also a slick and campy amalgamation of a smattering of genre films, pieced together to try and say something while actually saying nothing. That’s an odd edict and one that only works sporadically within the confines of the story director Jeremy Kasten (ALL SOULS DAY) is trying to tell.
Kasten’s film stands like a gnarled branch on a winding tree of revisionist horror cinema—the bastard child of greater minds—a Frankenstein construct pieced together from the jagged edges of Abel Ferrara’s gritty noir THE ADDICTION. In that film the director used the affliction as a jumping off point for a philosophical interpretation of what it means to be a vampire. Ferrara’s film is notoriously self-aggrandizing but at the same time is the rawest cinematic existence—in terms of dissecting the suffering search for blood. Like Ferrara’s take on Vampirism, Darren Aaronofsky’s unflinching portrayal of the madness of drug addiction—REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, which was based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s nearly unfilmable novel—upped the ante for the depths of human suffering and the utter self-destruction of the craving. Kasten borrows heavily on the feel of that film as well. But, the largest debt that THE THRIST owes, is too Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 dusk till dawn road trip NEAR DARK—a film from which Kasten along with co-writers Ben Lustig, Liz Maccie, Wayne Mahon and Producer Mark A. Altman have lifted the entire cast.
The film’s plot is concise, a recovering drug addict Maxx (Matt Kesslar) discovers that his girlfriend Lisa (Claire Kramer) is dying of cancer. Not ready to go gently into that goodnight, Lisa makes a deal with a sexy vampire nurse (Serena Scott-Thomas) to end her mortal suffering and take up a new bloody existence. When Maxx is dragged to a Goth nightclub by a pair of friends (including pal Eric Palladino) he sees a girl he could swear is Lisa dancing in the fog—unable to reconcile the image, he returns to discover that Lisa is now part of a clan of Vampires, lead by Darius (Jeremy Sisto) and hellbent on tasting every pleasure of the flesh. His desire to be with Lisa at any price leads Maxx down a path of murderous bloodlust and ultimately an utter acceptance of his fate.
Fans of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and genre fans alike are apt to be in for a real treat with the cast that Kasten has assembled for his Vamps-run-amuck saga. Stars Claire Kramer and Serena Scott-Thomas along with Tom Lenk and Adam Baldwin all have roots in the Joss Whedon inspired universe. DEAD & BREAKFAST alumni Eric Palladino and Jeremy Sisto also jump into the fray, with Sisto affecting some kind of crazed Transylvanian-via-Texas drawl that ups the Velveeta factor considerably. With that crew in place and enough blood to fill a dozen bathtubs (Not to mention a nod to the bloody rave sequence in BLADE) it won’t take long for you to figure out that the crew behind this film weren’t exactly shooting for the subtleties.
THE THRIST is anarchic, never focusing its energy for more than a few frames on any one thing, the blood flows like a river and the plot only truly exists to move the orgy of violence from set-piece to set-piece. It’s fun in a trashy late-night-cable way and whatever scope the cast and crew set up as serious falls by the wayside in a barrage of egregious scenery chewing. The only element of the film that feels realistic is the spot-on coupling of Lisa and Maxx. The pair are a textbook definition of co-dependency, with Maxx coming off as worse for the wear in almost every instance. The torture that Kessler plays when he accidentally kills one of his best friends, while trying to turn her, is the films most interesting psychological moment. It’s in that scene and the so-sad-you’ll-laugh-out-loud REQUIEM FOR A DREAM “cat sequence” that THE THRIST really hits its stride.
It is in the closing moments of the film, as the lovers vanquish the clan and determine that their fate will be their own, that the sentiment turns slyly heartfelt. And it only works because as nuts as they are, over the course of the previous 90-some minutes, you actually start to like these crazy kids. It’s an interesting ending, hammering home the couples almost BONNIE & CLYDE existence with a fine cinematic send-off. It’s an almost restrained moment of filmmaking for a movie that is anything but.