The Medium looked to terrify audiences at London Film Festival but did it deliver a high, Medium or low number of scares?
Banjong Pisanthanakun’s horror lulls you into a false sense of security. If one was unaware of what they were watching, for all intensive purposes, it begins as a rather pedestrian documentary exploring the work of Nim. A local shaman or “Medium”, who channels the spirit of a female deity called Ba Yan.
As Nim explains, she’s the latest in a long line of women in her family who became Ba Yan’s channel. It is a huge responsibility and one that her own sister Noi was not ready for and so passed over the opportunity to Nim. When Noi’s daughter Mink exhibits signs of becoming the next Medium, the documentary crew begin to follow her as well. However Nim starts to become convinced that it is not the spirit of Ba Yan but something for more malevolent.
The film opts for the slow burn to begin with. Changes to Mink’s persona start of slowly, then increasing in pace, strength and violence. This approach allows for more time with the family and how the possession affects them individually and as a unit. Sawanee Utoomma delivers a strong performance as Nim as she suffers a crisis in confidence and faith trying to save the soul of her niece. However the star of the show is Narilya Gulmongkupech as Mink. It is stunning to watch her metamorphisis. Evolving from an innocent young woman to completely demonic. Her physicality; contorting her face and body into unnatural shapes is truly frightening to witness.
It is fair to say that those underwhelmed by the first two thirds of the film will be eating their words come the relentless final act.
Once the documentary crew set up infrared cameras inside the house to record Mink’s increasingly chaotic behaviour, the fear dial is cranked all the way up. Eventually going up to 11 once the exorcism ceremony begins to purge the demon from her. Only for that to backfire spectacularly. Resulting in an intense finale that has echoes of The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity and *REC.
If there is a fault, it does fall into trap so many horror mockumentaries and found footage films do. The question of, “Who edited the film together and why?”. The only films that provided an effective plot device for this were The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
However, once one suspends their disbelief, it will be nigh-on impossible to watchThe Medium and not find your pulse racing and nerves shredded by the time the camera stops rolling.
NB: The version of the film that screened at the festival did not feature captioning/subtitling on title cards that appeared during the film which would have provided more backstory and context to the storyline. These will apparently feature on the final version streaming on Shudder.
The Medium is available to stream on Shudder from October 14
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Stars: Narilya Gulmongkulpech, Sawanee Utoomma, Sirani Yankittikan
Runtime: 130 minutes