Demonic Thai Mockumentary Horror The Medium (2021) Will Leave You Possessed
Title: The Medium
First Non-Festival Release: July 14, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Writer: Chantavit Dhanasevi, Na Hong-jin, Banjong Pisanthanakun
Runtime: 130 Minutes
Starring: Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sawanee Utoomma, Sirani Yankittikan
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A camera crew sets out to make a documentary on shamans and chooses to follow Nim (Sawanee Utoomma) to learn more about her life and practices. Whilst filming they meet others involved with Nim’s life including her sister Noi (Sirani Yankittikan) and her daughter Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech). Originally, the spirit that inhabits Nim, Bayan, an ancestral God, originally possessed Noi, who rejected her when she converted to Christianity. Thus, Nim took on the role of shaman instead. Years pass and it’s not until several mysterious deaths in the family when Mink starts exhibiting the same symptoms of possession that Nim and Noi had. Except, something is wrong. Terribly wrong.
The Medium is a slow-burn descent into the hellfire of possession, demons, and the sins of forefathers.
The story behind The Medium is fascinating. It differentiates itself from other possession horrors by never fully explaining what exactly is possessing Mink. There are plenty of explanations, all of which are terrifying and unique. The background of shamans and their history is fascinating. Those without prior knowledge will find themselves able to follow the story while many with a deeper understanding will pick up on clues and hints as to what is going on.
There is so much talent to be uncovered in The Medium. Sawanee Utoomma embodies her role of the shaman perfectly. From her demeanor to her voice, it’s clear that she took measures to be as genuine as possible in her role. It feels like we meet a real shaman as we are introduced to her world. Watching Sirani Yankittikan unravel from loving mom and pragmatic spiritualist to the mess she becomes is heartbreaking. Yankittikan pulls it off with authenticity and vulnerability. Noi’s character arc is simply devastating. She goes through every trail by Mink’s side doing what she believes is best for her daughter. She’s even willing to do things that go against everything she believes in, it’s just gut-wrenching to watch.
The real star power, however, comes from Narilya Gulmongkolpech. She is given the herculean task of portraying Mink, which must have been brutal and exhausting. Mink goes through the ringer and Gulmongkolpech takes on the task of every vile, depraved, and gross stunt that Mink pulls with the demonic grace and poise of the most demented of demons. One irritating aspect to her character (and the writing) is how repetitive it gets to hear people scream Mink’s name. Other than that, most moments feel like they advance the story without getting too expository.
Ending with a final ceremony that is beautifully chaotic and horrifying on every measure, The Medium finishes on a note somehow eerier than the hours of buildup. Painstaking measures go into place to save Mink and it’s haunting to watch as everything culminates. Truly what makes The Medium so effective is how it leans into ambiguity. Too often horror will over explain the unexplainable. Sure, there needs to be sufficient information to move the plot along, but The Medium expertly gives just enough while psychologically tormenting its audience with what isn’t shown.
Abandoning faith can kill you. That is the primary lesson to be learned from The Medium.
This is true for all characters. Their world crumbles when it’s clear they no longer believe in anything. Nim is the last to fall but the earliest to feel its effects. Noi lost the battle a long time ago which made her vulnerable to karma. Part of that karma was marrying a man whose bloodline is cursed. Mink is doomed from the start as she never believed in anything, either in Christianity or her family’s beliefs. She goes as far as mocking shamans and acting disinterested at church. As soon as it’s clear that something is wrong with Mink and that she is not being possessed by who everyone suspects, it’s too late. The fear that no one is looking out for you or protecting you is paralyzing. Predestination comes in to play too, but the catalyst of these character’s demise comes from losing faith that things could be better.
I have virtually no complaints about this film aside from a few I’ve mentioned previously. There’s still even more to love. The photography is stunning. There are a few moments when the cinema verité style just doesn’t feel right, but the shots they get are fantastic. Night vision gets a little abused towards the end, but that’s forgivable considering it’s the smart thing for our characters to use. Featuring a haunting and full score, The Medium makes its mockumentary approach work by zoning in at just the right moments. And lastly, the effects are just fantastic. For a film that’s over two hours, every scene feels important. It’s a slow-burn for sure, but it burns bright. Overall, it’s a dark and twisted supernatural horror that is as scary as it is methodical.
High profile creators Banjong Pisanthanakun, Chantavit Dhanasevi, and Na Hong-jin deserve all the credit in the world for taking on this terrifying tale of possession. The Medium succeeds in telling its story by patiently crawling to its explosive finale with enough prolonged eeriness and lore to keep audiences on edge. The lead actresses do a stellar job of authentically playing their parts: knowledgeable shaman, loving mother, and vulnerable child. Just when you think The Medium can’t go any further, it does. Uninterested in keeping its audience comfortable or coddled, The Medium takes a dark approach to its heavy subject matter, unrelenting in its quest to terrify. Every year, there’s always a film or two that I’m certain will be my favorite of the year until something inevitably usurps it. The Medium is that film, jumping worthy contenders for not only the scariest horror film but the best. This is one that you must seek out, before it seeks you.
Overall Score? 8.5/10