Dir: Park Chan-wook
Star: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Hae-sook

Having a priest who's a vampire is such an obvious choice, you wonder why it hasn't been done before [Disclaimer. It might have been: I did Google "vampire priest", but got a ton of hits for that Paul Bettany flick, which really wasn't relevant!]. There's the whole "this is my blood" thing, plus immortal life: and there's the important role of them in hunting vampires historically [Dracula has Risen From the Grave being my favorite]. But a priest who is a vampire? Seems like a first. Here, it's the result of a blood transfusion following a failed medical experiment, to which Sang-hyun (Song) consented, seeking martyrdom. Instead, he's cured - albeit at the cost of having to avoid sunlight, and an increasing desire for blood. But he's still a priest, and so initially tries to satisfy his needs in less lethal ways, such as from a patient in a coma at the hospital where he works. But his miraculously recovery creates a cult around him, which brings him in to contact with Tae-ju (Kim), her ill husband (Shin) and their mother (Kim). Sang-hyun and Tae-ju begin a relationship, but the truth about his lifestyle is inevitably going to come out.

There are a lot of interesting ideas, and the execution is occasionally brilliant. But... God, does this drag on, particularly in the first half, where Sang-Hyun takes far longer to figure things out than anyone who has ever seen a vampire movie would. There's then a great deal of agonizing and angst over the process and what to do about it. Things become a good deal better when he finally opens up to Tae-Ju, and the pair become a pair of husband and wife vampires - again, something not really seen often before, as they bicker about kills. The film's best scene has a mah-jong evening, where her mother, who is now able to communicate only with her eyes and one finger, tries to convey the nature of her daughter and Sang-Hyun to the guests. It's tense, and the outcome is messy, to say the least; it certainly showcases Park's strengths as a film-maker. However, it takes too long to get there, and the opportunity to say something interesting about religion or faith are largely wasted. By the end, Sang-Hyun's dog-collar is about the only thing that reminds you he was ever a priest.

[March 2013]

Suckers for Christ
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