Narilya Gulmongkolpech as Mink, Sirani Yankittikan as Noi – The Medium – Photo Credit: Sasidis Sasisakulporn/Shudder
It’s no secret that I am a fan of found footage horror films. If done correctly I enjoy letting go and accepting that what I am watching is real. It just makes things that much more thrilling and entertaining. Tomorrow, October, 14th, will be the release of the Shutter exclusive supernatural/horror film The Medium. It is directed by Thai director Banjong Pisanthanakun. You may recall his work on his feature debut, the acclaimed ghost story, Shutter. The story comes from an original story by Na Hong-jin and Pisanthanakun.
The Medium has been making its way around film festivals and it will finally have its domestic debut. It has already been released in South Korea this past summer. Currently, it stands as the 6th highest-grossing film of 2021. It stars Sawanee Utoomma, Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sirani Yankittikan.
We start our journey in The Medium in a small village in rural Thailand, where we meet Nim, played by Sawanee Utoomma and her family. The film is supposedly shot by a group making a documentary about her and her family. We quickly learn that the woman in the family has a spiritual connection to the goddess Ba Yan. Who chooses from them someone to be her shaman. In this case, the shaman is Nim. We see her making trips to the mountain where the supposedly the goddess resides. As well as in her village healing spiritual ailments from villagers and jokingly telling the cameramen that if you’re physically sick then she recommends a doctor.
Things get very interesting when we meet Nim’s niece, Mink, played by Narilya Gulmongkolpech. In the beginning, she by all means seems like your typical young adult. But as the film progresses very strange and seemingly unnatural things begin to take a hold of her. To the point where the documentary crew begins to pay more attention to her.
The thought is that Ba Yan may be trying to transfer her divine favor over to Mink from Nim. This does not sit well with Mink’s mother, Noi, played by Sirani Yankittikan, who in the past had rejected the ability to become Ba Yan’s shaman and is now a Christian. Due to this, she rejects Nim’s help which only makes things worse. To the point where she believes that Mink needs to just accept her fate to alleviate her condition. Unfortunately, they discover too late that what may be insider her is a much more sinister spirit. Leading to a frantic and horrific set of events.
Where It Excels
The Medium excels in its ability to draw us into the lives of the characters. While some may see this as a weakness because it makes the film slow at first, it pays off big time by the end of the film. We watch this seemingly normal family slowly spiral of control. As an audience, we root for Mink to get better and for Nim to save the day but as attempt after attempt fails we become as desperate as the characters.
Part of what also makes The Medium work for me was it’s ability to stay grounded. Most of what we see on camera does not feel too far out from the realm of possibility. This is also a reason why the slow start, in the beginning, helps as it adds to the idea that everything is all right and kind of boring. Only to have the rug snatched from under us in the third and fourth acts.
It is here where a great combination of Blair Witch shaky cam and Paranormal Activity style shooting deliver some of the most uncomfortable scenes I have seen. Despite the different styles of shooting in The Medium, it all came together very well. All I will say is that Narilya is brilliant as a possessed individual. Everything you had learned in the first two acts makes the moments that much better.
Where It Falls Short
Something that may bother some viewers is what I keep stressing will pay off, the length of the film at a little over two hours long. But I do wonder if it would still have that same effect if it was shorter. The subtitles did not bother me although I was frustrated that the chapter title cards were not translated, leaving me to guess what was written. Also, while I won’t talk about it in-depth, I did feel that some of the events of the ritual at the end were a little too extravagant and over the top.
Shutter’s The Medium for me is the new bar for found-footage horror films. Banjong Pisanthanakun does such a great job at building tension and making audiences uncomfortable. Within the thrills and scares, there is also a good story about a family in a small village. The addition of adding the lore of a deity also served the film very well. If there is one horror film that you check out this month, make it The Medium.
Overall Grade: A-
The Shudder exclusive The Medium will be available tomorrow on their streaming service.