‘The Medium’ drags into abyss of fear of supernatural power

SEOUL-- "The Medium" is a rare cinematic collaboration between South Korea and Thailand, bringing together the two countries' horror masters Na Hong-jin of "The Wailing" (2016) and Banjong Pisanthanakun of "Shutter" (2004).

Measuring up to the reputation of the production crew, it is scary and frightening enough to elicit fear and disgust and evoke viewers' nightmares even at home through its effectively visualized spiritual possession and rituals.

"The Medium" starts with a documentary team that follows Nim (Sawanee Utoomma), a shaman based in a rural town in deep Northern Thailand, who looks like an ordinary middle-aged woman.

The sorcerer succeeded the role of an intermediary between god and the secular world from her maternal grandmother and aunt, as her elder sister Noi (Sirani Yankittikan) refused to become the inherited shaman years ago.

One day, during a funeral of her sister's husband, Nim sees her niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech) showing strange symptoms out of nowhere. Nim and Noi suspect that those are signs of the family inheritance of shamanism, as both had experienced years ago, and Mink is about to become the next medium.

The documentary team is thrilled about the timing, as they can catch the moment of spirit channeling, and asks the family if they can film the daily lives of Mink and other family members.

Noi, who doesn't want her daughter to become a shaman, makes all-out efforts to drag Mink out of the spiritual inheritance as she did in the past, but Mink gets more sucked into the enigmatic power.

From here, the movie, which is presented as a documentary, moves its focus to Mink from Nim.

The camera records how Mink, a bright, pretty girl in her early 20s, becomes more bizarre and grotesque as she is possessed by ghosts and evil.

Her crazed and bloodshot eyes and gore-drenched scenes that she causes keep the viewers terrified about demonic possession by a supernatural and primitive power that they cannot see.

The suspense and thrill based on shock-and-awe tactics continue until the end of the movie, leaving a string of questions unsolved, such as what is behind Mink's dreadful behavior and who is responsible for it.

The movie employs docudrama-like storytelling to maintain the pretense of reality from the beginning, with its surveillance camera footage and handheld shots amplifying the horror in a more intense way.

Moreover, Thailand's exotic scenery and hot and humid weather create a cloudy and gloomy atmosphere, making spiritual connection and mediumship look more visceral and intuitive.

Thai actors, unknown to Korean viewers, and their language beef up the strangeness and unpredictability in the horror movie.

From a broader point of view, "The Medium" reminds viewers of "The Wailing" to a large extent, featuring supernaturalism, exorcism and occultism to create visualized horror with rain, mud and blood.

But the Pisanthanakun-directed movie crossed the line that Na, the producer of the latest project, had drawn five years ago. The 41-year old director, who gained worldwide recognition for his directorial debut horror "Shutter" and "Alone" (2007), mixes incest and cannibalism in "The Medium," based on the original story written by Na.

It is more violent, sexual and bloody compared to "The Wailing," as Na said in a press conference that he tried to "persuade Pisanthanakun not to be too cruel."

"The Medium" will hit South Korean screens on July 14.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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