‘Thirst’ (1979): Hard Times Down at the Blood Farm


Thirst is a unique vampire movie, dealing with issues of conformity, slavery, paranoia, and the legend of Elizabeth Bathory. It’s also Australian, mate!

Descendant of Evil

Thirst centers on the character of Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), a supposed descendant of the legendary “Vampire Queen,” Elizabeth Báthory. It’s not the first movie to involve Báthory, but it is among the best I’ve seen. Being a descendant of a historical villain is an interesting idea. Even if the story is fictional, it’s easy to wonder how one would cope with that knowledge. This alone could be devastating. For example, I’ve read that Bettina Goering, the great niece of Nazi leader Hermann Goering, sterilized herself for fear of genetically passing on his evil.

Kate Davis has a similar revulsion when informed of her ancestor by a cult known as “The Brotherhood.” It doesn’t help that they’re compelling her to join them, and to take up vampirism herself. However, The Brotherhood’s setup is a bit different from traditional vampires.

They are essentially factory farmers, as opposed to seeking out “free range” humans. At one point, humans are referred to as “blood-cows” who are “carefully selected” for blood harvesting — which is done in a medical, prison-like compound. It’s both a humorous and creepy concept, and may delve into social commentary territory.

I should mention that David Hemming does a great job as Dr. Fraser, the most humane member of the brotherhood. Also, Shirley Cameron does an excellent job as the opposite type of character, Mrs. Barker. I could almost see her paraphrasing Michelangelo of the Ninja Turtles, yelling, “I love being a vampire!”

Kate, looking positively glowing! (via New Line)

An Offer She Can’t Refuse?

Being a person of conscience, Kate resists the Brotherhood’s attempts to brainwash her, even if she is outnumbered. This is another story element that works for me. Much like in Rosemary’s Baby, the idea of outsiders crowding, overpowering and transforming us is rather potent. On the one hand, you have the fear of change and the quasi-political intrigue of a shadowy cabal. On the other, there’s the part that just wants to return to normal — like Dorothy clicking her heels, repeating, “There’s no place like home” (coincidentally, Dorothy was herself a farm girl, so maybe Thirst was offering a new twist on an old classic).

The Final Verdict

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Although Thirst won’t be for everyone, it’s good enough to recommend, and not only to vampire fans. It stands as a psychological horror/very dark comedy about conformity gone wrong. Vampires are basically an added bonus. Though there is no critical consensus, the movie does have a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, and a 5.8/10 on IMDb. In other words, if critics help sway you into liking stuff, you’ll probably quench your thirst with this one.