MEDIUM, THE (RANG ZONG)
(director/writer: Banjong Pisanthanakun; screenwriters: story by Na, Hong-Jin, Choi Cha Won, Chantavit Dhanasevi, Siwawut Sewatanon; cinematographer: Naruphol Chokanapitak; editor: Thammarat Sumethsupachok; music:Chatchai Pongprapaphan; cast: Narilya Gulmongkolpech (Mink), Sawanee Utoomma (Nim), Sirani Yankittikan (Noi), Yasaka Chaisorn (Manit), Boonsong Nakphoo (Shanti), Arunee Wattana (Pang), Thanutphon Boonsang (Lisa); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Na Hong-jin, Banjong Pisanthanakun: A Shudder release; 2021-South Korea/Thailand-in Thai with English subtitles)
“Creepy and scary, sometimes playful and hard to fathom for non-believers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An exotic Thai-South Korean weird and frightening supernatural-horror film of demonic possession from the story by the South Korean Na Hong-jin (wrote & directed the masterful horror pic The Wailing-2016). It’s directed with the feel of authenticity by the popular Thai filmmaker Banjong Pisanthanakun (“Shutter”/”Alone”) and is magically written by Pisanthanakun and the team of writers Choi Cha Won, Chantavit Dhanasevi and Siwawut Sewatanon. The story centers around the belief in shamanism as it is played out in the northeastern Isan part of Thailand (the Loei province). The narrative uncovers the belief in the local folk lore, which was around before there was organized religion. By showing a shaman’s ceremonies and rituals for spiritualism, the healing process and the practice of animism, the film turns into an unsettling mind-boggling journey into an alternative religion.
It takes the form of a mockumentary when a group of documentary filmmakers in 2018 are filming the everyday life of the middle-aged female shaman Nim (Sawanee Utoomma), an expert in black magic, whose family has the honor of serving as a corporeal vessel for the local deity called Bayan. Nim got the position after her sister Noi (Sirani Yankittikan) rejected it. When her niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech) shows the needed signs of being the next chosen one, Nim gives her all the help she can but becomes concerned when her behavior becomes erratic.
Its centerpiece sequence is a 30-minute-long exorcism orgy, filmed as a faux-documentary, with handheld shots, grainy footage and characters speaking directly to the camera (Think Blair Witch Project and how it was shot in the guerilla style).
The true story comes off as a work of fiction. It’s creepy and scary, sometimes playful and hard to fathom for non-believers. It shows that the followers can chow down on dogs used in their rituals and seriously believe in evil spirits.
The Asian religious film was picked as Thailand’s representative for the Oscar’s International Feature, and probably won’t win but is a strong entry for Best Foreign Picture.
REVIEWED ON 12/22/2021 GRADE: B +