We can probably blame Troll Hunter for this. With stunning effects, lush scenery, strong performances and an inventive screenplay, André Øvredal’s second feature was one of the strangest and strongest horror movies of 2010. Thale walks the same path, dealing in mythical creatures, Norwegian folklore, a sprinkling of dark comedy and the promise of horror, but loses its footing when it comes to quality entertainment.
Two cleaners, one cabin and an encounter with a mythical creature called Thale; that’s what you get with this disappointingly dreary Scandinavian creature feature. Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and Elvis (Erlend Nervold) are crime scene cleaners, not that Elvis really has the stomach for it anymore. On their latest job they head down to the basement and discover Thale (Silje Reinåmo), unquestionably supernatural and mostly naked. It’s not long before Leo and Elvis believe they’ve discovered a real life huldra.
Just in case you’re not up to date with your Norwegian folklore, a huldra is a beautiful yet deadly creature that lures men to their deaths. Nice. The huldra certainly lends itself to the horror genre, but it’s all well and good having a great idea, you’ve still got to know how to present these themes in an entertaining and appetising way. Associated with Christianity, the story goes that Eve had washed only half of her children when God came to her cottage. Ashamed of the dirty ones, she hid them away. God decreed that those she had hidden from him would be hidden from mankind, and so our story begins.
Hollywood horror movies Species and Splice have already provided us with striking anomalies forced to exact vengeance, and despite Aleksander Nordaas’ best intentions, it would have been nice if Thale had gone the same way. The trailer certainly hints at horror-tinged fantasy – where a largely naked beauty sporting a rather fetching cow tail goes on the rampage – but even at 79 minutes long Thale seems to drag its heels.
Leo and Elvis are engaging enough at first but too much time is spent watching them either throw up or chew gum. Somewhat annoyingly, they only have three facial expressions between them (vacant, confused and stoned), and two of those are loose variations of the other. Leo’s relationship with Elvis is undercooked, much like most of the storytelling, and nothing comes together in the way you would expect it to.
Small details are thrown in and cast aside (along with themes of empowerment, friendship, family and science gone wrong), having next to no impact on the plot, and if it wasn’t for Silje Reinåmo I would have lost interest a lot sooner. Reinåmo is perfectly cast as the 'regular farm girl, although somewhat more dazzling than most girls’, creating a character both chilling and childlike. Quite why we have to spend so much time watching her eat buns – especially when there’s such a fascinating origin story lurking in the surrounding woodland – remains a mystery to me, but that pretty much sums up the entirety of Thale I’m afraid.
Nordaas has taken an intriguing concept and done next to nothing with it, presenting a low-budget horror yarn hampered by limited resources, weak effects and diluted glimpses of terror. The creatures that lurk in the shadows are overlooked for too long in favour of human leads that hold little interest, resulting in a movie that promises much but delivers nothing.
Neither scary enough to uphold its horror roots or quirky enough to convince as fantasy drama, Thale sits uncomfortably in between. Signs of promise are littered throughout, but Nordaas fails to capitalise upon them, adding to the overall disappointment of a film that could’ve been and should’ve been so much more. AW