Once more the Asian horror scene rocks the foundations of the genre, this time hailing from a Thai/South Korea production of The Medium and garnering critical acclaim on homegrown shores. Now it has the opportunity to awaken the soul for a ‘western’ audience with the streaming platform Shudder.
The Medium could easily be misjudged however, due its preambling of the story, presented as a dramatised documentary in the vein of a found footage film. The film is shot by a team of documentarians drawn to a north eastern town in Thailand to film a local medium, Nim (Sawanee Utoomma) who channels the spiritual deity of Bayan. Bayan has been possessing females in Nim’s family for generations. Interestingly though, (and this is a potentially clue to how the film will end) is that the intended possessed was supposed to be Nim’s sister, Noi, who turned her back on this tradition in favour of Christianity. The rest that follows could be heralded as the fears transpired by spiritual damnation or confused devotion to a conflicted cause. Either option is doomed to a corrupt and foul conclusion.
The film struggles to connect with its audience at first as the screenplay draws out a slow burn through observing Nim’s niece Mink, who starts to show signs of curious behaviour and the hallmarks of multiple personalities. This does not worry Nim however, who initially believes that these traits are the signs that Bayan is about to transfer his soul from her into Mink. Such a promise compels the film crew to start following Mink with some shockingly curious actions from Mink, leading them and the villagers to believe that all is not as it may seem. The more they try to contain her though, the more wild and crazed her actions become to the threat of those closest to her.
The creative team of Director Banjong Pisanthanakun and screenwriter Na Hong-jin finely craft a film that builds in atmosphere and tension, managing to keep it on the right side of dramatic flair without seeping into ridiculousness.
The conclusion is driven with such pace that for those who watch will question who will survive the ordeal when faced with an unknown entity hellbent on destroying them all.
There is plenty to fire the coils of curiosity, but it is a slow ignition to get the heat truly sizzling, and as such takes a while to pull the audience into its simmering turmoil. The advice here is to let yourself soak into the narrative and you’ll be rewarded with a rambunctious and bloody end.
- Saul Muerte
The Medium is currently streaming on Shudder