Vampires have always been queer, whether it be through their metaphorical representation of AIDS/HIV, the homoeroticism present in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles book series, or explorations of the queer experience in general...
...Queer horror has until recently been mostly overlooked, and queer characters have more often than not been written as monsters. What makes Thirst/Þorsti unique from other films of its kind that have followed before and after are its choices in how to present representation that has been sorely lacking in horror. Here the queer character, while a creature of the night, is not the “monster” at all. That role belongs to the humans. That is part of the story touched upon in Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson and Gaukur Úlfarsson’s Thirst/Þorsti.
Hjörtur (Hjörtur Sævar Steinason) has been wandering Iceland for thousands of years leaving bodies in his wake. A fair warning to the squeamish: there are A LOT of dicks being ripped off in this movie (a sentence I never thought I’d have to write). That being said, what’s a vampire film without some blood and gore? On that front, Thirst/Þorsti delivers in pints.
Everything changes one night when Hjörtur is accosted by two goons in a scene that may feel familiar to anyone that has been targeted because of their looks or sexual orientation. Enter Hulda (Hulda Lind Kristinsdóttir) who stumbles on the scene and takes it upon herself to help him.
Thus, the story and unexpected friendship between the pair kicks off to a bloody start. Throughout the film we see Hulda mourning the loss of her brother and dealing with her addiction (featuring a dream sequence that felt very reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream) juxtaposed with Hjörtur’s loneliness. Their unexpected connection gives us one of the best performances from Steinason as we see, through his eyes and facial expressions, just how much it’s taken its toll.
One of the best examples of this friendship comes when Hjörtur begins talking about how he views the world and how he only feels that lust—or, rather, bloodlust—for men, not women. It reminded me of scenes you often see in films or tv where the queer character tries to explain how they feel inside about who they are attracted to. This moment is perhaps Steinason’s strongest performance in the film. As the camera cuts between Hjörtur and the man he desires we feel almost as if it’s bringing us into his mind allowing us to be a voyeur to his desires.
In a way the film is about two lonely and lost souls finding each other in this crazy, messed up, chaotic world. For all its serious moments, however, the laughs and camp of the film are never far behind. Björn Leó Brynjarsson’s script gives us all this and more as Hulda and Hjörtur battle a cult leader, and perhaps the film’s most out-there character, Ester (played by the wonderfully wacky Ester Sveinbjarnardóttir) who delivers her “The End is Nigh” speeches with such conviction that they feel almost like a movie in their own right.
Thirst/Þorsti also boasts some fantastic cinematography by Hakon Sverrisson. One shot in particular that stood out for me came when Hjörtur walks through a blend of red and blue/green smoke with the accompanying score by Berndsen heightening the scene. Speaking of score, Berndsen delivers with synths and classic compositions that give the story this very heartbeat-like feel, with the synth waves flowing very much like blood through our veins.
Steinþórsson and Úlfarsson’s Thirst/Þorsti has the potential of becoming an Icelandic horror classic in a similar vein to the Dead Snow films.
I found myself having a great time watching this movie. The only gripe I had was the random animated sequence thrown in, which felt more like a separate short film inserted into the longer work. While I’m not certain of the sequence’s purpose, the animation was great and the story was spooky as hell so, despite it taking me out of the main story for a bit, it was still an enjoyable experience.
If you like your vampires bloody and entertaining, then I highly suggest checking out Thirst/Þorsti. Don’t let the subtitles scare you...they won't bite.
Thirst/Þorsti is now on DVD and Digital from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Kalani Landgraf