A woman awakes in a darkened cellar illuminated only by candlelight. When she realises she is in a coffin, she screams... A week earlier, the woman, Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), had been living a normal life and planning a holiday to relieve her stress. She saw her boyfriend Derek (Rod Mullinar) before she was about to go, but as they spent the evening by the fireside they were unaware of being watched through the window by an agent of a sinister group. This collective believe that Kate is the descendant of the Countess Bathory, a well known vampire, and they are going to kidnap her to indoctrinate her in the ways of the modern vampire. When Kate is ready for her break, she is spirited away against her will to a top secret complex where she will be forced to comply - can she get away before it's too late and the ghouls claim her as one of their own?
It's tricky to come up with fresh variations on hackneyed themes, and any follower of the horror genre knows that only too well. For Thirst, John Pinkney's script posits a vampire network across the world, the heads of which gather for a formal get-together in a remote Australian location known as The Farm. And with good reason, as a farm is what it is, with normal humans kept there, drugged into a zombie-like existence and drained of blood regularly to satisfy the appetites of the vampires globally, much like a dairy. So much like a dairy that they deliver the blood in milk cartons, as Kate finds out when she goes to pour the milk for the pet cat - puss knocks over the carton and the red stuff spills all over the floor, much to her surprise, although it doesn't stop her hesitantly licking a finger.
This is all the excuse that the bloodsuckers need to take Kate to their place in the country and begin what looks like the machinations of an extreme religious cult, offering her nothing but blood to drink, injecting her with sedatives, and constantly trying to persuade her that she really is one of them, and belongs to their way of life. When Kate works out what is going on she is horrified, and manages to escape, stealing a truck to make her getaway. But with the dreadful inevitability that marks the story, the truck breaks down and who should happen along but the leaders of the group in their Rolls Royce, who help her back to the Farm. Although the film resembles an Australian, feature length episode of The Hammer House of Horror, it refuses to rely on a twist and there's no doubt that Kate will succumb eventually.
As the heroine, Contouri is fairly bland, called upon to do little but react in terror or disgust at the situation she has found herself in, and do a lot of running away only to be caught once more. The rest of the cast are largely adequate, except for the excellent Shirley Cameron as the dedicated vampire who utilises more militant methods to turn Kate - she is very fine in her role, always unpleasantly overfriendly and letting us see the steel underneath her doctorly demeanour. Her big idea is to subject Kate to a series of hallucinatory experiences which take her to the edge of her sanity and through to a kind of acceptance, despite the opposition of the liberal Dr Fraser (a quietly effective David Hemmings).
Although we're never in any doubt that what we are seeing is not real, these dream sequences are nicely written, with Kate enjoying a picnic with Derek only to take a mouthful of chicken leg which is filled with blood, or finding herself back home to discover that her housekeeper works for the vampires, or being trapped in a large room with something big trying to break down the door outside. A disadvantage, however, is the uninspired direction which may render the workings of the plant creepily banal, but doesn't change its tack for the suspense scenes, resulting in a slightly monotonous quality throughout. Still, the idea of an assembly of vampires organised like a no-nonsense corporation is a refreshing change from Gothic castles and turning into bats - these guys even have to put in their own false fangs to feed (glowing red eyes are optional). Music by Brian May.