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‘The Medium’ review: Clever horror film mashes up sub genres to maximum effect

Let Ba Yan take you.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

The Medium is a film that is firmly planted in horror, but still manages to cross a number of sub genres. Part documentary and part found footage with bits of a “regular” movie sprinkled in, the production is a strange brew that comes together nicely until its chaotic finale. A documentary team follows Nim who is a shaman in Northern Thailand. When her niece starts experiencing odd symptoms, everyone’s focus changes. What they discover is much more horrifying than they could have ever imagined.

Documentary and found footage often go together, but things work a little different here. For starters, aside from Japan and Korea (sort of), found footage never really took off in Asia. This is evident in The Medium. It looks more like an ordinary feature than another point of view flick. Many times, it seems like a movie about a documentary being put together as opposed to an actual doc.

This gives The Medium a look that is unlike anything in the found footage arena. There is much less of the shaky cam and running in the dark that detractors dislike about these types of films. Everything is grounded and is akin to watching a story about a remote village. The first act actually plays out like a standard movie with a voiceover. It is a nice touch that gives a level of character depth not normally seen in the genre.

Found footage tropes are not completely eliminated, however. Starting with the second act, night vision cameras and computers become more prevalent. The Medium seamlessly weaves these elements into its story. Things switch from a normal documentary to the type of found footage film audiences are used to seeing. The way it is eases people watching into this new viewpoint may make it more palatable to those who normally do not watch point of view movies.

The Medium moves along nicely up until the last few minutes. Things become harder to understand and confusing. By this time, it has become exclusively found footage. Everything unravels at a frantic pace, and it truly becomes a question of how the audience is going to see what is happening. The film adds a coda at the end to try to explain things, but it will fall flat for some. By then, most will be so invested in the story, it will not bother them.

The Medium comes to Shudder October 14

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