Kate Davis has a cozy and successful life as an independent business woman, with an equally successful architect boyfriend. Things seem to be chugging along grandly for the young woman when, one morning, she finds that someone seems to have filled her milk cartons with fresh blood by mistake! Before she knows it, she's being kidnapped and spirited off to a vast farming complex run by a mysterious brotherhood known as 'The Hyma'. The cult are a group of secret modern-day "vampires" who have overcome the messy business of acquiring their daily dose of the red stuff by turning the production of blood into a secret industry.
Their farming complex is home to a herd of "blood cows", or rather -- people who they've managed to kidnap without anyone noticing! These people are kept prisoner at the camp, checked for blood diseases, and fed on a special, blood-enhancing diet; then they are regularly "milked" of their blood -- which is packaged in cartons at an on-site factory facility, and sent out (free of charge don't you know) to the cult's members all around the world! It seems that Kate has come to the cult's attention because she is the last surviving descendent of one, Countess Elizabeth Bathory! The cult leaders intend to reintroduce the Bathory bloodline into the brotherhood and they need Kate to join them and partake of their "activities" to do this! Cult leader Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings) is confident that Kate's dormant "thirst" will be reawakened with gentle persuasion and encouragement; but brotherhood battle-axe Mrs. Cameron (Shirley Cameron) is convinced that a lifetime of being brought up in conventional society will have conditioned Kate not to accept her "fate" and therefore, a ruthless programme of reconditioning and indoctrination will be required to break down her defenses. When Kate learns what is really going on down at the "farm", her reaction seems to bear out Mrs. Cameron's prediction and Kate's life looks destined to become even more of a nightmare as the cult go to ever increasing extremes in order to turn her into one of their own kind!
Although it's hardly a lost masterpiece, this little known Australian horror thriller gets a welcome release in the UK from the prolific Screen Entertainment as part of their Hard Gore Collection. Director, Rod Hardy's career has mainly led to some pretty varied TV work since he made the film in 1979; his resume includes everything from "Neighbours" to "The X-Files". "Thirst" tries hard to emulate the great moments from other successful horror thrillers of the time; one particular moment in the film recalls a famous scene from "Carrie", and the paranoid conspiracy plot-line recalls "Rosemary's Baby". The film can never quite match the hallucinatory paranoid feel of Polanski's classic though, mainly because it telegraphs every plot development so comprehensively that there is next to no mystery; we're told everything we need to know within the first ten minutes of the film which then spends it's running time playing out the rather predictable scenario.
That's not to say that there isn't much to enjoy here though, and the premise behind the film incorporates a rather novel spin on the vampire genre. There are also several well handled sequences — in particular, the scene where Kate attempts to escape the compound in a stolen truck very effectively invokes the Hitchcock formula for suspense, and a hallucination scene expertly conjures up a sense of dread — even incorporating a little gore into the proceedings! Much is made of Kate's disgust with the thought of blood drinking in the first half of the film, so that later on, when we see her conditioned to willingly drink pints of it in order to quell her dreadful hallucinations, these scenes do actually begin to seem quite disturbing.
If anything though, there are just too many interesting ideas crammed into too short a film; a ten minute segment in which a "conditioned" Kate is reintroduced into her normal life, could have made an entire film on its own! The final 15 minutes do also seem to get a bit incoherent and feel very rushed, while the end of the film has a curious unfinished quality to it — as if the makers ran out of money and so just dubbed a voice-over on to the last scene they filmed to round things off quickly! This is still definitely worth a look though and the late, great David Hemmings is well on form as the deceptively sympathetic Dr. Fraser.
Well worth checking out for it's originality and verve!