London Film Festival: The Medium (2021)

Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Starring: Sawanee Utoomma, Narilya Gulmongkolpech, Sirani Yankittikan, Yasaka Chaisorn, Boonsong Nakphoo, Arunee Wattana, Thanutphon Boonsang, Pakapol Srirongmuang, Akkaradech Rattanawong, Chatchawat Sanveang

In the Isan area of Thailand, a documentary team follows a shaman named Nim (Sawanee Utoomma) who claims to have inherited a spirit passed down through her family. When her niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech) shows strange symptoms, the team believe they're capturing the shaman lineage passing onto the next generation. However, her extreme behaviour hints at something darker instead.

Over the 131-minute runtime, co-writer/director Banjong Pisanthanakun crafts an ambitious Thai epic with shades of Drag Me To Hell, as a family grapples with ancestral sins rearing it ugly head in visceral ways. There are many grand ideas in place, such as one familial lineage full of nasty deaths for the men, though it's hurt by pacing issues making moments feel slow and the lengthy runtime being felt.

The documentary style often feels unnecessary and distractingly intrusive, as questions of "why is the camera-operator still filming?" appear when on-screen terrors start occurring. Despite this, some of the standout spine-chilling moments happens thanks to the effective use of night vision and camera placement.

Peppered throughout are horrifying and unsettling moments which allows the cast to show off their committed performances. Gulmongkolpech is the clear standout as Mink, capturing the distress at seeing her life unravel in unfathomable ways, while giving a skin-crawling performance during the possessed instances. As the film barrels towards the end, it takes unexpected paths to devastating and excellent effect, although one wishes there was more consistency up to that point.

The Medium is available to stream on Shudder