Title: The Medium
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Starring: Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sawanee Utoomma, Sirani Yankittikan, Yasaka Cahisorn
Runtime: 2 hr 10 mins
What It Is: A documentary film crew follows a shaman named Nim (Utoomma), a woman who claims that all the generations of women in her family are destined to allow their local goddess Ba Yan to possess them with her powers and connection to the spirit world. Nim’s family has often crossed paths with tragedy, her sister Noi’s (Yankittikan) husband Wiroj having passed from a heart attack shortly after burning down his factory for the insurance money, and their adult son Mac passing away suddenly. When Nim’s niece and Noi’s daughter Mink (Gulmongkolpech) changes personalities and shows strange symptoms and destructive behaviors, Nim is convinced it is Mink’s time to surrender to the will of Ba Yan, only to find the cause of Mink’s growing evil is rooted far deeper and more dangerous than anyone could have ever thought.
What We Think: A rarity amongst its genre, whether you consider this a pseudo-documentary, mockumentary, and/or found footage, this has to be one of the best I’ve seen yet, at least within the last few years. Filmmaker Pisanthanakun has created quite a namesake for themselves over the years, releasing notable Thai works such as Alone and Shutter. Here, he outdoes the genre by reeling it in with a contemporary production in order to make it feel all the more real. The direction taken over the imagery is apparent, and looks painstaking. One going cold into this film could easily be tricked into thinking it’s a personal deep dive into the life of a shaman woman in the gorgeous landscapes of Thailand. Lord knows I was fooled, as I was confused by how absolutely stunning this film looks, akin to anything on National Geographic. The balance with high-def shots of environments, temples, and cityscapes and a crew following the subjects on handheld give the perfect illusion of a real modern-day documentary, and make the horror only that more immersive. It’s disorienting throughout, at first forcing you to put the pieces together, while you’re not even entirely sure what’s real or what isn’t. Is Ba Yan real, or is Nim really empowered by the goddess? Is Nim a shaman, or a woman who has lead a long life of struggle and mental illness, and was vulnerable enough to be coerced into being a shaman? Following Nim into the rabbit hole that is her family’s unraveling curse doesn’t seem to clear it up any better, only leaving us with more and more uncertainy. This movie is an upredictable and tense horror-thriller that keeps you invested in its characters, whom all feel like real people. The performances feel so real it’s easy to loose sight of the fiction, which is a fantastic feeling. I seriously cannot gush enough over how strong the performances were, sympathetic and gritty and heartbreaking. Not to mention shocking. This film was absolutely, deliciously shocking in where it decides to go. When I realized what I was watching was bound for the paranormal, I braced myself for what awful things were around the corner. There are a lot of terrible things that happen to people in this movie, because of the terrible things they’ve done. The morality and spiritualy of the film is impressive and sucks you in, the atmosphere a character all its own. You feel as if you’re watching the movie, but it could be watching you as well, judging you. You don’t know who is really pulling the strings and the ambiguity kills. The actions of the characters and karma around the film feels vast, and SUPER cursed. I definitely wonder if any freaky things happened on set, considering all the insane ritualistic and spiritual environments were created for the film. The atmosphere of dread is heavy and only gets heavier the farther things decend into chaos and evil, making this one of the most haunting films about the death of faith I’ve seen.
Our Grade: A, A sure to be horror classic, this incredibly bleak pseudo-doc is masterfully woven with writing and performances that blow any Hollywood film out of the water. This is one of the smartest mockumentaries I’ve seen, with scenes and imagery that will permeate ones memories and dreams. The ending is outstanding, leaving us as viewers not only questioning the elements and characters of the film, but also what we ourselves decide get out of what happened. It’s a dark tale about bad karma and bad faith, and vulnerable people whose shortcomings only push themselves further and further into Hell. What a badass, creepy-ass movie, one I would put up there with the likes of Noroi, The Eye, and Blair Witch. Now forget you’ve read this review and just go watch and enjoy this movie on Shudder!