Following in the (really bloody big) footsteps of cult Norwegian fantasy/horror flick Troll Hunter is Thale, another fantastical, peculiar creature feature wrangled from Norwegian folklore. Being one of very few people who didn’t particular love Troll Hunter (too much unwieldy exposition, not enough mad troll action) I hoped Thale would not also disappoint and force me to scribble Norway out of my atlas in big black marker pen as part of a petty, ill considered tantrum. Fortunately, whilst not being anything truly remarkable, Thale is far from disappointing, it is in fact a rather intriguing, well made and enjoyable little low budget tale.
The story concerns two friends who, as part of their job as crime scene gore moppers, find themselves at an isolated cabin deep in the woods, where they find a hidden room containing a mute, naked woman, seemingly held captive by the cabin’s resident. A few shocking and bizarre discoveries later it soon becomes clear that there is much more to this otherworldly young woman than meets the eye.
Thale has an awful lot going in its favour. First and foremost it’s incredibly intriguing, setting up a strange and fascinating little mystery from the outset. A movie that revolves around a mystery has to walk a tricky line, if it all comes together too quickly you get a damp squib, if it takes too long to resolve the questions at hand you risk losing the audience’s patience. Thale handles the pacing with confidence and gradually following the trail of breadcrumbs toward the conclusion is a satisfying journey for the most part.
Director Aleksander Nordaas belies his movie’s restricted budget to produce a fine looking film. Part of this is down to the sheer level of detail, the set design is excellent, it’s both authentically creepy and intricate, filled with fine details that might provide clues for eagle eyed viewers. Nordaas masks his lack of funds further with some artfully composed shots and skillful stylistic flourishes that bolster the creeping atmosphere of dread that pervades from early on, for the most part it’s quite a calm movie that’s low on actual incident, but it throbs with nervy tension throughout. The effects work is great too, generally subtle and never overused, the creature design is terrific, CGI rears its (usually) ugly head later in the movie, but like the rest of Thale , where the budget cannot reach, excellent design and smart details win the day.
The performances are spot on as well, Silje Reinåmo is genuinely beguiling and just the right degree of peculiar to convince as the not quite human Thale, but keep the movie grounded in a sense of reality. Both Erlend Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard follow suit as the two crime scene cleaner pals, giving naturalistic, likeable performances enlivened with a little fun, odd couple chemistry.
Unfortunately, come the end, the whole is just a little lesser than the sum of its individually impressive parts. My one and only real issue with Thale is that it is very slight, the running time is well under 90 minutes and there is little in the way of character development during this brief time. Its foundations in folklore become glaringly obvious and it more resembles a brief, fun campfire tale than a fully formed feature.
Despite being rather slight and not amounting to anything truly special, Thale is a thoroughly enjoyable, highly creative, very well crafted movie that deserves a one off rental at the very least.
Thale is out on DVD 25th March 2013.
Director: Aleksander Nordaas
Writer: Aleksander Nordaas
Stars: Silje Reinåmo, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard
Runtime: 76 min