by Rachel Willis
Part horror, part environmental allegory, Eric Owen’s film Thirst is a disappointing foray into a world of fear and paranoia.
Early in the film, we’re introduced to Jose (Brian Villalobos) and Lucy (Lori Kovacevich). Jose works for a high-powered law firm and struggles to show his commitment to the company, laboring long hours that result in sleepless nights. The crux of the film’s horror comes from Jose’s lack of sleep. Anyone with chronic insomnia might recognize some of the symptoms: increasing irritability, an inability to focus, and a bone-crushing weariness that never abates.
As Jose’s insomnia continues night after night, his behavior becomes progressively erratic. Lucy is forced to consider a possibility from Jose’s past, adding another layer of tension to the horror. The inability to sleep, the mood swings, and the hallucinations lead her down a dark path. However, the reality is darker than even Lucy can guess.
The film’s first two acts manage to ratchet the tension up slowly, but progressively. As additional characters make their way into the film – particularly Jose’s sister, Vicky (Federica Estaba Rangel) – we get a glimpse of others suffering from behavior like Jose’s.
The story’s weakest moments come when we spend inordinate amounts of time with Vickey and her partner, Lisa. The deterioration of their relationship doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, nor does it add anything meaningful to the theme. Lisa is introduced merely to add a possible explanation for what we’re witnessing on screen, but her conspiracy theory rantings make her unreliable. That she might happen to be right occasionally does nothing to validate her as a trustworthy source.
The film’s final act takes a sharp turn. In some ways, it works. It explains a lot of what preceded it. On the other hand, the allegory isn’t effective, and the tonal shift is jarring. Neither element manages to derail the film entirely, but some of the answers to the questions raised in the beginning aren’t satisfying. In the end, Owen’s seems more interested in delivering a message than a wholly satisfying film.