The Medium (2021)

Directed By: Bangjong Pisanthankakun

Starring: Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sawanee Utoomma, Sirani Yankittikan

Plot Summary: A documentary team follows Nim, a shaman based in Northern Thai, the Isan area, and encounters her niece Mink showing strange symptoms that seem to have been of inheritance shamanism. The team decides to follow Mink, hoping to capture the shaman lineage passing on the next generation, but her bizarre behavior becomes more extreme. The Medium is the latest feature from genre-jumping Thai director Banjong Pisanthanakun whose feature debut, the acclaimed ghost story Shutter, co-directed and co-written with Parkpoom Wongpoom, has been remade in three languages, including the 2008 Hollywood remake directed by Masayuki Ochiai.

I recently expressed my love for the found footage horror subgenre in my review for documentary The Found Footage Phenomena (2021). One of the most interesting aspects of that film was how it touched upon international found footage horror. The Medium (2021), a Thai-Korean film utilizes this visual style, is a refreshing and fascinating offering. From the outset, I will say that this film requires your utmost attention. Thankfully though, even as someone who didn’t have much if any knowledge of Thai religious practices, the film does a good job at laying everything you need to know. On the face of it, Medium is very much a standard possession movie with trappings you’ve no doubt seen a hundred times before. However, thankfully the movie does a lot to set itself apart from countless others.

Director Bangjong Pisanthankakun takes rich cultural and religious aspects to weave a layered and wholly engaging horror rollercoaster. This is a slow-burn of a film and I think it does a good job at establishing characters whilst providing some excellent emotional stakes in the form of a mother-daughter through line. Indeed, there really are some harrowing and heartbreaking moments among the supernatural hijinks. Bangjong truly builds up to one hell of a frenzied, nightmare-inducing finale. The Medium obviously touched a nerve within its country, as it is currently the sixth highest grossing Korean film of 2021. The biggest issue I found is the movie clocks in at just over two hours, and I think the filmmakers could have cut a good 15-20 minutes to give it an overall tighter focus. Furthermore, there are plot points that feel like they could have been fleshed out. While 2016’s The Wailing is a superior movie, they both have the same kind of eerie, and unflinching presence throughout.

The Medium perfectly weaves its heritage to craft a haunting and mesmerizing film.

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