Friday, March 25, 2016

Thirst (1979)

This week's B-Movie Enema is a bit of a change of pace.  First, it's a good movie.  Second, it's an interesting take on an old idea.

From Australia, allow me to present to you Rod Hardy's Thirst...

I should note that the director, Hardy, has gone on to work on some things of note relatively recently.  He's directed episodes of Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files, The Librarians, and Supernatural.  So he's no schlub.  The film also stars a beautiful actress by the name of Chantal Contouri who is a little Greek and a little Australian, and all around alright by me.  While she did have a brief stint on General Hospital in the late 80s, for the most part, she's primarily stayed in Australia and been on many of their TV shows.  Unfortunately, we don't get many of those so I can't give any overview of that in any real sense like the shows that Rod Hardy worked on here in the States.

I first saw a majority of this movie on the Roku channel Bizarre TV one afternoon and was immediately interested by the premise.  I eventually saw it a second time, in its entirety, and got a copy of it on DVD.  Even since then, I've seen it a couple more times.  Basically, Thirst takes the vampire lore of Elizabeth Bathory and adds to it a bit of modern industry/capitalism to go along with how a cult worships the legend.  But enough about what I have to say about it, let's take the synopsis from the back of the DVD box:

"She was innocent, pure and unsuspecting.  Now, Kate Davis has been kidnapped by a bloodthirsty cult and taken to a remote village.  It is there that she discovers her unholy fate! According to the prophecies of the Hyma Brotherhood, she must fulfill her destiny by marrying their leader and helping them quench their eternal thirst for blood."

Let's get started, shall we?


As the movie starts, our heroine, Kate, wakes up in a coffin in a cellar.  Another woman is heard saying Kate is responding well to her treatments, while another man asks if they are sure they want to keep going forward.  Kate is then seen coming home to her house where she's greeted by her cat.  Later, she spends the evening with her mustachioed boyfriend while a figure watches them get it on through the patio window.

In a board room, a group of men and women are being briefed by the weird guy who watched the couple making love the night before.  The weird guy is telling them about Kate's life.  We learn that they are willing to use force if necessary to make her see things their way and have her marry this group's leader.  However, they will need to get her before she leaves for a vacation.  At Kate's home, when her cat knocks over a milk carton, she finds it is filled with milk.  When she tastes the red liquid, her cat hisses at her. She's then nabbed by the group that was discussing their plans in the scene prior.

While they drive her out to their compound in the middle of nowhere, she's clearly drugged, but the main woman (who looks a lot like the sister character from Superman III but isn't) and the main guy (who is known for being in Dick Tracy and Above the Law) discuss their plans.  The lady says they should have been conditioning her from the start, or at least longer than they have, while the guy says she is simply strong willed.  Later, once they bring her to the compound, they tell her that they are a brotherhood who worships her ancestor - Countess Elizabeth Bathory.  So Kate is wanted by this group because she's related to history's earliest "real" vampire.

However, this compound is full of some weird people.  There's a lot of people in white mental institution style clothing milling about in a daze.  The main lady after Kate, Mrs. Barker, tells Kate that she is on a farm.  The people milling about are all donors.  Well, more accurately, they are more like cattle for their blood.  They start injecting Kate with a drug that helps them condition her to see things their way.  It's kind of a combination of brainwashing and simply driving her insane to basically use that mental break as a way to make her pliable to their needs.

She's betrothed to the group's leader, Mr. Hodge, so they can marry and combine "two great households".  Barker and the other guy she's always working with, Dr. Gauss, wants to use the conditioning to make her what they need, but when the head doctor, Dr. Frasier, returns to the compound he wants her freed from this and wants her to join them willingly without the conditioning.  What's most interesting is that we see an inner politics in this large cult, but we're kind of left in the dark as to what exactly they think marrying this girl to Hodge is really supposed to do aside from some sort of royal preceding.  Either way, we do see that whatever they think they are going to accomplish with Kate seems to have them all excited and debating with each other as to what should be happening.

Despite the in-fighting, Frasier eventually allows for Kate to wander free around the "farm".  She's surprised to see the reactions everyone has to her as they look at at her like royalty.  We also see how each of the cattle are bled to provide blood for the main cult members.  One girl is taken away after seemingly being "chosen" by Kate, though all she did was glance at the girl.  When her friend tells Kate that the girl isn't a very strong person and begs Kate to not drink too much from her, Kate is horrified and makes a run for it.

Kate escapes to an old man's chicken farm and she begs the man to take her away.  He never speaks a word to her.  He seems to not want anything to do with her.  Despite her pleas and her offers of money, he still ignores her. So she steals his truck.  When she gets out into the highway, she runs out of gas and is offered help from a black couple but she politely declines.  However, she's recaptured because pretty much everyone who pass her on the road are all associated with the cult in one way or another and coming to attend a festival.  So naturally, Barker is also on the road to help usher the guests in and is able to bring Kate back to the farm.

Unable to sleep, Kate sneaks about the grounds and witnesses the festival which involves an old purple haired lady given a pair of fangs and feasting on one of the cattle after her eyes glow red.  Up to this point, we just think this is some nutty cult Kate's being dragged into.  However, we're now seeing glowing red eyes.  So are the members of this brotherhood really vampires?

Basically starting here, the movie really kind of start to take a bit more of a trippy, mind fuck kind of angle.  Barker drugs Kate to start doing the conditioning again.  She's wheeled down a corridor, but wakes up in a serene park next to a pond where Kate is reunited with her boyfriend Derek at a picnic. She's kind of out of it and doesn't know how she gets there, but is soon comforted by Derek and they get to some sexy business next to the pond.

After they start to eat their lunch.  Kate, though, is still hazy.  She doesn't remember them coming to the pond.  She doesn't know what day it is.  She believed she had lost Derek, but isn't saying anything about the farm or the cult who kidnapped her.  When she bites into a chicken drumstick, it gushes blood, and she finds she's been picnicking and, very likely fucked, the Hodge guy instead of Derek.  So it's probably safe to say that this isn't real and was all a part of the conditioning, but it doesn't stop there...

After running and diving into the pond after realizing she's been with Hodge, it starts to pour rain (and Chantal Contouri in a soaking summer dress is no small thing to scoff at).  She walks only a brief distance and she finds herself at the gate of her home.  Her maid tells Kate that she's only been gone for a few hours.  She decides to take a shower only to have the shower head to pour blood all over her.  So she apparently has come home because her maid comes in to tell Kate that she shouldn't be scared because that's just the thirst building inside her - revealing that Kate's maid is part of the brotherhood as well.

We now cut to flashbacks of Kate as a little girl when she lost her mother, which is intercut with Kate as an adult walking about in the compound.  Mrs. Barker is telling her that she must let go of the past and to accept what she is.  She finds her maid, but she's just a melting corpse.  She gets chased by an unseen monster.  Basically her whole world around her is getting twisted and destroyed - which is all part of the conditioning Mrs. Barker has put Kate through.  We're just seeing it from Kate's perspective.  Even the walls are cracking to symbolize her own psyche cracking and falling apart.

Which I should add is not something a bad movie does.

In order for this nightmarescape around her to stop terrorizing her, Kate, accepts a cup of blood and starts to gladly drink it, which causes the unseen monster to go away, and the room is lighted by the sun shining into the room.  Barker reports positive results, despite Frasier's concerns that Kate may not respect them after all they did to her.

Kate is then dressed in a ceremonial gown and taken to the meeting hall where she's given her own person to feed on.  Kate seems to be accepting of her new roll as the Countess of this international group.  However, as she gets closer to the altar where the guy she's to feed on is, she stops and starts to kind of break out of the conditioning until Barker comes down and reminds her this is her destiny.  She's given her fangs and the guy she is going to bite happens to be the guy she was talking to just before she tried to escape.  When seeing him, she faints.  However, Hodge reminds her again of destiny and she gets her glowing red eyes and feeds like a champ on the poor bastard on the altar.

They then let Kate out into the world to see how well her conditioning holds up.  She's met at home by her assistant at a job that was briefly mentioned earlier.  They talk briefly about how Kate isn't hungry to eat anything but still feels hunger.  She goes to get the girl some coffee, but when she sees the cup she drank the blood from in her fever dream, she starts to get some weird vibes.  She comes into the room where her assistant is working and reveals to the girl glowing eyes and fangs.  She attacks and bites the girl's throat, presumably killing her.  She then wakes from a nightmare in bed with Derek.  Just when we think maybe all this is just some weird dream and she's just a crazy person or has been resisting her conditioning, she attacks Derek.  Some toughs break in and kidnap Kate and Derek.

We learn that she's not quite up to snuff because she's still too confused by everything that's happened to her to trust that she can live in the world.  Barker and Gauss wants to start conditioning again, but Frasier protests.  He plans to get Kate out of the farm before a committee meeting convenes to figure out what's best for Kate.  She says she will not leave without Derek and convinces Frasier to help her escape with Derek.

Derek and Frasier are nearly captured by Barker but they escape her by pushing her into a vat of blood where she drowns.  Then as Frasier and Kate try to escape in a helicopter, Gauss latches on but is dropped onto some powerlines and cooked.  Frasier takes Kate to his hideout and there she finds Derek hooked up to a blood milking machine and near death.  He says that no one but her will have any of Derek's blood.  Frasier puts in his fangs and goes to bite Kate.  She begs for her life, but then begs to become one of the members of the brotherhood and Frasier bites her.  As she seems to really get into this, we learn that he was working on his own conditioning for Hodge so she would be convinced to be one of them and marry to her rightful place in the brotherhood.

I'm sure anyone who has read my other articles would be a little disappointed that I seemed a bit more subdued, but, what can I say...  I really like this movie.  It's far from perfect.  There's a lot of emphasis on Kate and Derek's relationship with not a great deal of screen time really given to it.  But, it doesn't outweigh the really good things about the movie.

This is a vampire flick that is not a horror movie.  It's really more of a drama/thriller than anything.  It's not about monsters or things that jump out of the shadows to kill someone.  It's about a cult willing to drive a girl mad to make her one of them all because of her ancestry.  And, while we're at it, let's talk about that girl...

I might be in love with Chantal Contouri.  She's not a sexy bombshell type of girl, but an incredibly pretty lady.  In fact, there two things that makes her so attractive in the movie.  One, she is a woman.  She's a professional and not some girl who has more looks than a real life.  Many horror movies and thrillers tend to cast girls to be younger or at least look, or act, younger.  Contouri is mature (but not old).  Two, you kinda are seeing this movie nearly entirely from her perspective.  Yes, we get some of the evil plan from the cult, but for the most part we're seeing things with her and she has a way to emote exactly the puzzlement, the horror, and the control when needed.  It's like you are placed right next to her throughout the movie.

This film is simply charming.  It pulls you in and you become invested in it pretty quickly.  It's unique as all get out.  Here's this vampire tale that is not your basic Dracula seduces a young girl and terrorizes her and a whole village.  Instead it's got the vampire tale, but it goes in the direction that since the time of Elizabeth Bathory, vampires have just existed in the world.  It's small, but thriving religion.  It also adds an economic and social angle to it too.  Instead of vampires just going out and taking whatever blood some poor dope is willing to give them,  This cult created a farm to help find healthy donors who aren't lousy with disease that could be given to the feeder.  It's kind of how they still connect vampirism to sex - by way of going the sexually transmitted disease route and just generalizing it all.  What mystical elements there were was downplayed.  It's not that there are vampires using those glowing red eyes to hypnotize Kate into joining them.  Yes, they condition her but by way of science instead.  So it's less of a magical hold over her and more of simple brainwashing.  Even though this was made in 1979, Thirst still feels modern and certainly feels a bit more realistic when giving the vampires a normal, human existence.

I think it is time to wrap it up for this week.  Don't worry, I'm not going soft.  Next week I will be bringing you another B-Movie Enema that will surely get me back to my surly ways and allows me to open up my dictionary of bad words.

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