THE MEDIUM (2021)
Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun.
Written by Cha-won Choi, Chantavit Dhanasevi, Na Hong-jin.
Starring Sawanee Utoomma, Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sirani Yankittikan, Yasaka Chaisorn, Boonsong Nakphoo, Arunee Wattana, Thanutphon Boonsang, Pakapol Srirongmuang, Akkaradech Rattanawong, Chatchawat Sanveang, Yossawat Sittiwong, Arnon Losiripanya, Klangchon Chuekham
A documentary film crew travels to the Isan region of Thailand to follow the local shaman Nim (Sawanee Utoomma) who was chosen to be the vessel for an ancient spirit which protects a small community. In the opening moments, we find out Nim never wanted to be the shaman, but when her sister Noi (Sirani Yankittikan) refused the role, it was Nim’s responsibility to take up the mantle as the role has been passed through their family for generations. But Nim’s niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech) begins showing physical signs that she may be ready to take on the responsibility, much to Noi’s refusal to accept it. The documentary crew decides to follow Mink as well to document this process, but it turns out it might not be the noble spirit inhabiting Mink, but a different one that is extremely evil and deadly. Now it is up to Nim to use everything she knows to rid Mink of this invading evil.
THE MEDIUM is a trek of a movie. Coming in at over two hours, I think a lot of people might not have the stamina to make it through the first hour which spends a lot of time getting to know the characters, the culture, and the rules of this ancient world that resides alongside our own. But if you do nope out of THE MEDIUM, you’ll miss one hell of a second half as it manages to deliver one of the more original, exotic, and creative possession movies you’re likely to see. That first hour is prep, giving you everything you need to know about this battle between Nim and the evil entity and that battle is a potent one.
There is a very natural feel to the way THE MEDIUM is presented. It’s not found footage and it is edited in a documentary format, so it’s much more akin to LAKE MUNGO than BLAIR WITCH. There’s no shaky camera or first person POV. This feels like a real documentary, making the dangers that Nim faces much more effectively chilling. The cold unblinking eye of the camera following this family around makes everything look legit and genuine.
But if you endure the steady, but slow pace of that first hour, you are in for one devastating and shocking last forty-five minutes. Yes, things get a little shakier and BLAIR WITCH-y, but while these night cam and handheld scenes do have a lot of the found footage aesthetic, that hour prep really works in pulling you into this story. And what a finale this THE MEDIUM has. It’s unpredictable, heartbreaking, and scary. The usual Christ compellings are nowhere to be found. Instead, you see shamanistic chants, bizarre rituals, and strange behavior. Everything culminates in some final scenes that are so shocking, you won’t believe what you’re seeing.
Reminiscent in some ways to THE WAILING, another excellent international shocker with a slow beginning and a powerful end, THE MEDIUM is brave horror. It defies convention and taps into deep, primal fears. No one is safe and there are no guarantees everything is going to work out in the end. It’s dangerous filmmaking—the kind of stuff Hollywood is too scared to touch. This is why I love international horror so much. It takes risks and taps into real, palpable horrors and I guarantee you won’t forget THE MEDIUM after watching.