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Lao horror director Mattie Do makes films where the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is permeable, but the people who pass through it often pay unimaginable costs for the privilege. In her debut feature Chanthaly (which she’s posted on YouTube), the title character can communicate with her dead mother, but only when she forgoes the heart medication that keeps her alive. Do’s second film, Dearest Sister (available on Shudder), features a young woman who begins to see the spirits of people who are about to die, but only after she develops a degenerative eye disease. Engaging with the ghosts turns her into a vessel for winning lottery numbers, but it also sends her into debilitating seizures. The Long Walk, Do’s third collaboration with her screenwriter husband Christopher Larsen, gives its lead spirit medium the most complicated risk-reward analysis of all. Taken as a loose trilogy, the films do nothing less than invent a Lao national horror cinema.

In case it wasn’t already clear, The Long Walk is not an adaptation of the beloved 1979 Stephen King novel published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. Do’s film centers on a character known only as the Old Man (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy), a hermit who lives on the outskirts of a small village in Laos, subsisting by selling scrap metal. Fifty years ago, when he was a young boy, the Old Man witnessed a woman’s death in the jungle, and her ghost (Noutnapha Soydara) has accompanied him on his daily walks ever since. He doesn’t just conjure her spirit for company — with her help, he can travel 50 years into the past to intervene in his own unhappy childhood. The changes he influences in his past reverberate into his present — a shattered glass cabinet here, a trail of bodies there. As he struggles to get a grip on the consequences of his time travel, the film becomes more critical of his motives.

Do reveals the inner workings of the plot slowly, and for long stretches, it’s difficult to place the action in time or space. An early scene at the dusty street market where the Old Man hawks copper wire sees him scanning a vendor’s phone with his arm. A microchip embedded in his skin accepts the payment, and the vendor mocks him for his outdated technology. It’s a disorienting moment — Wait, what year is this? — and Do continues to layer it with additional questions. There’s a bit of David Lynch’s opacity in her willingness to show something striking that the au