Directed by Jeremy Kasten
Distributed by Starz Home Entertainment
Lisa and Maxx are in love but having some problems. They’re both recovering addicts; yet, while Maxx (Keeslar, co-star of the “Family” episode of Masters of Horror) is striving to stay clean by attending meetings and working the program, Lisa (Kramer, Glory from the Buffy TV series) is risking her recovery by continuing to work as a stripper and associating with the wrong people. Or so Maxx thinks. In actuality, she’s fighting a losing battle against cancer and keeping it from him. In order to spare him the agony of watching her die, she commits suicide, which sends poor Maxx spiraling down into a deep depression. A couple of his well-meaning friends, one of whom is played by Erik Palladino in an all-too-brief appearance, drag him out to Club Inferno, your typical Goth/S&M type establishment, where Maxx spots a girl who’s a dead ringer for his dearly departed Lisa.
Convinced that the person he saw really is Lisa, Maxx digs up her grave and finds it empty. He goes back to the club, and it’s here where things start to get interesting. Lisa is indeed alive — but not so well — and a member of a vampire “family” headed up by Darius (Sisto) and Mariel (Thomas). Duke (Jackson), Lenny (Baldwin), and two interchangeable half-naked chicks make up the rest of the bloodsucking household, all of whom have taken up residence in a seemingly deserted Bible camp for kids. (You gotta love the irony of that setting, right?!) Darius issues Lisa an ultimatum with regard to Maxx: Kill him or turn him. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say she opts for the latter.
The rest of the film involves Maxx and Lisa (a) coming to terms with what they’ve become, (b) figuring out where they fit into the hierarchy of the family, and (c) guessing which crazy accent Darius is going to use next. Both (a) and (b) provide the actors with ample opportunity to rip the flesh off their victims and roll around in an almost overly excessive amount of the red stuff while (c) presents the audience with a fun new drinking game. His normal voice? Do a shot. Texas twang? That calls for two. Randy Russian? Down the whole bottle! If it sounds like I don’t appreciate what Sisto and the filmmakers were going for with the Darius character, that’s not the case. It’s a clever idea, but something got a little lost in the translation. Maybe if they had had the time for additional character development, it would have played out more successfully.
The lack of time — and money — shows up in other areas of The Thirst as well. While the actors are all enthusiastic and bring a lot of charisma to their respective roles, especially leading ladies Kramer and Thomas, none of them are really given enough to do. The film’s runtime is just a scant 88 minutes, but even so it feels padded with dispensable extraneous stuff and not enough substance. Both Duke and Mariel are interesting characters I would have liked to know more about, but they’re given short shrift. Keesler’s Maxx is likable enough, but he spends much too much time shouting instead of reciting his lines. Several scenes could have benefited from another take, but as producer Mark Altman says time and time again in the commentary, they were simply under too many budgetary constraints. But reshoots wouldn’t have solved all of The Thirst‘s problems, the majority of which stem from the script. “Uneven” doesn’t even begin to cover it. With five people listed as working on the screenplay, it’s no surprise the tenor and tone shift so much. Moreover, director Kasten must shoulder some of the burden. Obviously he and the producers decided on an overall jumpy, ragged look for the film, and while it worked out well for Club Inferno and the frenzied feeding setpieces, other scenes wound up looking amateurish and beyond cliché. And don’t even get me started on the blue tinted day-for-night shots. More effort toward cleaning them up in post would have gone a long way in those instances.
Our final player in the blame game is the music. While composer Joe Kraemer makes a fine foil for Altman on the often entertaining commentary track, the end result of his work on the film is quite unfortunate. The song selections aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they are played at such a high volume that they become obtrusive and detract from the onscreen events. It may have been a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers to do so, but as far as this reviewer is concerned, it was extremely annoying and damn near ruined what little good there is to be enjoyed in The Thirst.
As for the DVD extras, there’s not much good to be found here either. Just 16-1/2 minutes of deleted scenes (which are really more extensions than deletions), the aforementioned Altman/Kraemer commentary, a DVD-ROM of the script, and a photo gallery. Several retailers (including the official Starz site for the film) list a commentary with Kasten, a making-of, and a “favorite vampires” featurette. Weird. Either we got a different disc than everyone else, or there was a major miscommunication somewhere.
So, do I recommend The Thirst or not? Basically, if you’re a vamp junkie like I am, you’ll probably dig it. Sisto alone is pretty much worth the price of admission, and there’s a nifty cameo by beloved genre go-to gal Ellie Cornell. It also offers its own matriarchal mythos with a few original twists, makes a decent attempt at providing social commentary on the addiction angle of vampirism, and winds up giving its audience a rather sweet little love story in the process. There’s an abundance of tits and gore and humor and vampires going up in flames, just not a lot of skillful plot mechanics or proficiency behind the scenes. But as Altman himself says, “Even if you don’t like it, hopefully you’ll appreciate” what they tried to accomplish. I do and, frankly, can’t sum it up any better than that myself.
Audio commentary with writer/producer Mark A. Altman and composer Joe Kraemer
Photo gallery including production sketches
Trailers and about 15 different versions of the Starz logo
2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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