Review by Kelly
“Through a failed medical experiment, a priest is stricken with vampirism and is forced to abandon his ascetic ways.”
This is a second review on a film done by director Chan-wook Park who is also responsible for the Vengeance trilogy (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance). I am really becoming a fan of this man's work.
Sang-hvun (played so magnificently by Song Kang-ho) is a devout priest who unfortunately becomes infected with a virus which is a risk he was willing to take to help people. Apparently this virus kills Asian and white people? Oh and also single men? That is never explained. The virus causes blistering of the skin and vomiting of blood. He receives a blood transfusion but sadly still dies as a result of the infection. However, he is then Reborn as a vampire. He is 1 out of the 50 people that survived this experimental trial . People begin to think he has special powers and they want him to heal them. He becomes sensitive to smell and food starts to smell like blood. Sunlight burns his skin and he gains incredible strength and agility. He can heal himself as he notices the blisters from the infection go away after he drinks blood. A realization he welcomes greatly as he is a very handsome man.
Song Kang-ho’s sexual feelings awaken and he develops feelings for the wife of a childhood friend, Tae-ju. Tae-ju hates her husband and her life due to being actually forced into the marriage by the woman who had adopted her. Due to his strong faith, he flagellates himself to rid his mind of these impure thoughts. In this action, we see how the transformation in people after they become a vampire, a creature of the night. It awakens within them innate and instinctual sexual desire.
Tae-ju has been drawn to him for years but it ramps up after he runs into her on the street during one of her “sleepwalking” episodes that she has just so she can escape the reality of her life. They are drawn to each other and their first sexual experience while very erotic is unfortunately cut short. Their second sexual experience is incredibly intimate; full of longing and desire. There is a hesitation at first but then biting and the inevitable pleasure for it. However, while Tae-ju loves it, she begins to think that it is not okay and wonders if she is a “pervert”. It seems as though enjoying pain with her pleasure is frowned upon and she's uncertain if she should continue. This also comes back to the vampire bite or “kiss” providing both an element of pain and pleasure. The desire for the “kiss” leads to the painful penetration which results in the feeling of euphoria felt during a feeding.
They become enthralled with each other and when he tells her that he is a vampire she immediately is very disturbed by it. Thankfully, though, she comes around. They fall in love with each other and of course she eventually wants to become a vampire. This doesn’t go as planned, or as hoped, for Song Kang-ho.
This movie is actually a very touching tale of love and desire going awry. I thought the pacing was good but at length of 2 hours and 15 minutes, it is definitely too long. There is a lot of story to tell but feel as if they could have shorten the film to at least an hour 45 or maximum 2 hours. There is some comedy in this movie which allows for a little bit of whimsy and light-hearted fun. The blood/gore is great. I really enjoyed this movie as it was interesting to see a vampire tale told through a Korean lens. I didn't think the score was at all remarkable but the acting was fantastic. The ending was epic and totally appropriate.
If you have at all enjoyed any of Chan-wook Park’s work then I recommend this movie 100% to you. Enjoy the blood-soaked ride!