Thirst (2023) Review
There’s a narrative principle known as Chekhov’s gun, named after Anton Chekhov who expounded it, that states “If in the first act, you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”.
In the opening scenes of Thirst, Jose (Brian Villalobos, Blood Relatives, Last Girl Standing) wakes up in the night and is shown constantly drinking from his water bottle. Then his wife Lucy (Lori Kovacevich, She Wore Pink and Red, But Humble Sinners) wakes up and asks if there’s any bottled water.
So hydration should be a major factor in the plot, right? And sure enough, in the very next scene Jose is reading a headline about pharmaceutical products in our drinking water.
Elsewhere Jose’s half-sister Vickey (Federica Estaba Rangel, Quaker Oaths, Cyber Case) Is dealing with a disintegrating relationship with Lisa (Stephanie Slayton, He Be She Be, Empty Nester’s Handbook) who is into conspiracy theories. Their indoor conversation is peppered with references to drinking water and a shot of a hose out in the yard.
All of this is woven into a plot that’s initially more concerned with Jose’s insomnia and its effects on his job and his and Lucy’s fertility treatments than anything overtly sinister. So we get lots of distorted camerawork representing his sleep deprived visions and scenes of Lucy expressing her concern over his condition. By the time Lisa was giving a talk at dinner that parrots one of Alex Jones’s more infamous claims only with gay fish instead of gay frogs I was, to put it mildly, bored.
“I suffer from insomnia and often wondered if a movie could be made where insomnia spread throughout a small town. I also have a fear of not having clean drinking water (always have a canteen by my side), something that we take for granted in much of the developed world”Eric Owen
To make matters worse, through most of the first half, the only scene in Thirst that has any impact is a manipulative jump scare involving Trent (Scotty Walker, Bloody Drama, Spring Breakdown). He’s a mentally challenged neighbour who is portrayed like something out of an 80s comedy before becoming a potential threat. The characterization is so outdated and insulting that I was waiting for him to be referred to as a retard.
The publicity for Thirst makes much of writer/director Eric Owen being one half of the musical duo Black Pistol Fire who were nominated for a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy. But while he might have musical talent his talent as a filmmaker is not in evidence. The script beats the viewer over the head with talk about conspiracies to the point it’s obvious where the plot is heading and to a degree that will alienate anyone who isn’t already down that rabbit hole.
At the same time though, Thirst’s actual events are focused on everyone’s domestic drama. The other two characters we get to meet are yet another couple Dom (P. Michael Hayes II, How to Disappear Completely, Super Therapy) and Sarah (Sarah Jack. Dear Healthcare Worker, Untie) whom we meet squabbling at the same dinner we hear about the gay fish.
If Thirst had delivered a decent payoff it might still have been salvageable. But when it gets to that point the result is a disappointment. It’s something many of us have actually lived through and, if the characters had an IQ above room temperature, they could have worked around or at least alleviated. And the “nefarious characters descend upon the land, claiming it as their own, and chaos ensues” in the distributor’s synopsis? That’s not until the last few minutes, and chaos is stretching things considerably.
It’s obvious Owen is passionate about the message he wanted Thirst to deliver, and the story has the elements to deliver it in an entertaining manner. But it can’t sell the danger at the center of the plot and it never manages to convey the mind altering effects of long term sleep deprivation. Watching it may work as a cure for chronic insomnia though.
Gravitas Ventures released Thirst to Digital Platforms today, September 5th.