As tempting as it is, don’t question a medium’s conclusions, more so the methods they have applied to reach them. Don’t think too much, to phrase it more succinctly. Rather fitting when you might need to do so too, to enjoy The Medium—or to see what’s enjoyable in it.

The final form of what started out as a spiritual (ha!) follow-up to 2016’s The Wailing from Korean filmmaker Na Hong-jin, who back then wanted to further explore the weaselly shaman character Il-gwang, The Medium presents itself as a window into the religious practice of interacting with spirits in northern Thailand—chief among them the Goddess Ba Yan. According to the film, she makes her presence and powers known by “possessing”—or “Ma Tiam” in the local dialect—a chosen woman, a process that repeats itself in said woman’s subsequent generations. Although “Ma Tiam” is framed as an honour, Vietnamese speakers might doubt it upon realising the phrase, eerily, sounds so much like “mượn tạm” (or “to temporarily borrow”). But just in case you don’t know the language, having the film’s director as Banjong Pisanthanakun, half of the duo behind genre hits Shutter and Alone, should signal you that being Ba Yan’s vessel will cause things to go hellish-south.

Clearly, Pisanthanakun, who wrote the screenplay, has fun fleshing out the lore—or making it functional within Thai culture (with previous collaborators Chantavit Dhanasevi and Siwawut Sewatanon each receiving a “story by” credit) from the original Korean one (from Na and Choi Cha-won). He has the images to bolster the point, too, which leads The Medium to be one of the found footage subgenre’s lengthier examples at 130 minutes. More Noroi: The Curse than [Rec], yet of course it will be more complete than The Devil Inside. Although momentum doesn’t visibly gain later on, in the unhurried phase Pisanthanakun and company, especially production designer Akadech Kaewkot with sets drenched in ethereal nature or crude modernities, heed their wisdom to legitimise the world—and in turn grounding the wicked something coming this way. It’s a crucial move since the horror in The Medium, whether captured through the documentary crew’s cameras, CCTVs and a taxi’s dashcam, is varied, unrelenting and stomach-churning despite minimal gore. We’re talking about increasingly depraved behaviour (including toddler endangerment), dying people and animals (one is a dog), and more. On the other hand, the substantial build-up allows every change experienced by our leads, Nim (Sawanee Utoomma) and her niece Mink (Narilya Gulmongkolpech), to resonate as the former investigates whether the latter is not being herself because she rejects becoming Ba Yan’s latest pick or she is under attack by something most unkind.

Although there are many young résumés and screen debuts in the main cast, everyone is compelling to watch, and that’s a bonus on top of meeting the film’s naturalistic vision. Without a doubt, the dueling performances of Utoomma and Gulmongkolpech is the main event in The Medium; the latter in particular since this is her first feature film role. While Utoomma straddles the line between being the aunt you can always confide in and a presence only fools would try to outwit without breaking a sweat, Gulmongkolpech goes all-out in the fifth gear of the possessed—at times she modulates the revs so that Mink’s stare into nothingness will disturb as much as a torrent of blasphemy. She is a Discovery, and the capital “D” is not a typo.

That said, as Mink gets put through the supernatural wringer more often, and each time more prolonged than the last, The Medium loses the ability to validate its vérité signatures. More specific substance for the documentary crew—that they want to promote Ba Yan to the world, for example—or a hybrid filmmaking style—as in between found footage and conventional—are possible remedies here; at the moment much of the access is downright unethical and amoral. In other words, Mink’s torment and Nim’s thwarting of it should have been made to feel like a journey to hell and hopefully back, not an effort where heightened suffering and extra destruction are reasons to rejoice. The cameramen being Ba Yan believers will make the exploitation reasonable, not to mention emphasising the film’s flashes of awareness that shamanism can be used to scam. The pivot between styles, when done right, won’t be as jarring as it sounds and can deliver certain sobering moments from an icky stalker effect (Mink’s workplace allows filming during operating hours?) or set pieces that challenge logic (What is with the delay in checking on the baby who might be at risk, even when the cameraman has been ordered to do so twice?).

But woe remains the one investing some thought into The Medium. Let go and let the hues of doom and possessed performances—the very aspects giving The Wailing its reverence—wash over you, Pisathanakun’s latest says, obviously leaving out how that approach would undermine the attentiveness in the foundation and the effort in the construction. And since your methods have been questioned and your conclusions are thus doubted, please accept these thousand pardons!

Rating: ★★½

The Medium is now on Shudder US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.