A recent discussion about the sequels to The Lost Boys, one of which bears the title The Thirst (2010), reminded me of this 2006 film of the same name, which I had seen years ago and which had since been sitting on my shelf.
Back when I first watched this DVD, some three or four years ago, I found the film so unspeakably bad that I had to fast-forward parts of it in order to get through. Now, in order to give it a proper and fair review, I forced myself to sit through it without the recourse of pressing fast-forward.
Lisa is sick. She is very sick. But she does not want to burden her boyfriend Maxx with the truth, which leads to some amount of tension and distrust. Lying in a hospital bed, Lisa has a strange vision of a mysterious lady. As both Lisa’s and Maxx’s life are touched by this mysterious lady and her weird “family”, things get ugly and decisions have to be made, sides have to be chosen, and battles have to be fought.
I know this plot description sounds vague. Mostly because I am not sure what counts as a spoiler in this film and what doesn’t. But also because some things in the film’s thin plot are not exactly crystal clear. There are many minor plot holes and inconsistencies.
Lisa is played by Clare Kramer, who is not only a veteran blogger and co-founder of GeekNation, but also the “big bad” on season 5 of Buffy, Glory. In fact, this is how the film has often been marketed in the years after its release. Because this film’s cast not only includes Kramer, but also fellow Buffy alumnus Tom Lenk (in a very small role) and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Angel). The mysterious lady is played by Serena Scott Thomas, who had also played a part in an episode of Buffy.
Matt Keeslar plays Lisa’s boyfriend Maxx. And there are major supporting roles played by Jeremy Sisto and Neil Jackson, who would both go on to do bigger and better things.
Smaller supporting roles see known character actor Erik Palladino and former beauty pageant winner Charlotte Ayanna (with The Thirst being one of two vampire films in which she appeared in 2006).
The acting in this film is rather decent when it comes to the minor supporting (human) characters, including Palladino’s and Ayanna’s performance. Also smaller roles see good acting, by Lenk, for example, but also by character actor Michael Mantell and by Alicia Morton. Morton is probably the actor that convinces me the most in the entire film, and her performance makes you wish to see her in more roles. Alas, working on The Thirst seems to have had such a lasting negative impression on her that she never again appeared in front of the camera.
The major supporting (vampire) characters all fight a loosing battle against the script. Baldwin is the most lucky one, as his character is dull but straightforward. And Jackson is successful in pulling off his character and making us feel that he has some hidden depth. But Jeremy Sisto and Serena Scott Thomas stand no chance. Their characters’ background and motivation are entirely unclear, and watching Sisto trying to do something with this character is like watching an animal severely injured in a car crash – you really hope that someone will come and put him out of his misery.
Having lead vampires that are merely bad caricatures is weighing heavily on the film. But the film’s protagonists are equally problematic. Lisa and especially Maxx are not written all that consistently. As with other major characters in this film, what motivates them is not always clear. And the story leans on their relationship to such a large degree that any flaw in the way this relationship is written poses a major problem.
There is a big emotional scene between Lisa and Maxx early on in the film, and neither Keeslar nor Kramer are able to convince in that scene. The writing is certainly no help in that scene, and the editing might also be to blame. We simply do not get enough set-up for this scene to really work. And there is not enough time afterwards to let this scene breathe before they throw in the next “big” scene. There are many other scenes featuring these two characters, and Kramer often is able to pull it off, but Keeslar mostly isn’t, which in turn makes Kramer’s performance in those scenes come to nothing.
And that is the biggest problem with this film: this is a script in which not even the basics really work – neither the characters, nor their motivation or their relationship. And then they try to build a film on top of these failing foundations, and in doing so are trying to throw too many heavy issues into the story. For this film, they use several well-known topoi: the film draws parallels between vampirism and sex; but also between vampirism and drug addiction; and also between vampirism and cancer. The script barely makes the latter two work, anyway – but the three simply clash, get in each other’s way, and overcrowd the film. As a script-writer, you should know what you want to say. And not throw everything on the page that three different voices in your head tell you to.
These various topoi result in a number of blood-drenched scenes that compete with each other. You have scenes that try to be an allegory for loss of virginity and scenes that try to be an allegory for birth, both throwing in some sort of attempted commentary at the constructive and the destructive nature of sex. The most prominent scene (which goes on for far too long) is an attempt to mirror the “cold turkey” scene from Trainspotting.
As I said, none of this works. It is too much, it is too poorly executed, and it is built upon a crumbling foundation of poor characters and story.
The locations and sets are all relatively well-chosen and well-presented, in a small-budget sort-of-way. Two central scenes take place at a burlesque/S&M/Goth club, called “Inferno”. The club has a lower and an upper level. The upper level is restricted, and unsurprisingly more “explicit”. It is those scenes at this club (together with three or four similar, smaller scenes at other locations), which the filmmakers clearly regarded as the centrepiece of their film. The virtual rug that ties the room together, if you will. They pulled out all stops for this. They went for a maximum of visual opulence, and included lots of nudity, sex and especially gore.
Gore is, in general, their go-to ingredient in this film. The Thirst looks like one of those films where everything (scenes, plot, characters) is just an excuse to show as much gore as possible. But I believe exactly the opposite is the case here. I think the filmmakers are simply using the gore trying to distract the audience from the many shortcomings of the script. I probably don’t have to tell you that it is seldom a good sign when a film sports 6 writing credits, which in this case include producer Mark Altman and director Jeremy Kasten. So, apparently, a lot of people kept meddling with the script, trying (but failing) to fix it.
In the end, neither the violence nor the gore work. This film fails to create any dread, or any horror, chiefly because there is no set-up and no context for the violence. And there are no stakes, because there is no character in this film that you care about.
As you can see, I have very few good things to say about this film. And if you had asked my opinion about the film before this re-watch, I would probably have rated it at or below 1 out of 10. But having seen it again, I tend to think of it as a 2.5 to 3 out of 10. There are great visuals here (even if they are not to my taste) and there are a number of decent ideas (including an innovative (if roundabout) way for killing vampires) and intentions thrown into this story – but unfortunately very little of it fits or works well together.