Intriguing low budget horror-fantasy out of Norway.
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Leo works for the No Shit Cleaning Service, a clean-up firm of the kind that disposes of dead bodies. Today he’s got his old pal Elvis along to help out (despite being entirely ill-suited to the job) and the task at hand is an elderly chap who expired some weeks back and has been taken advantage of by the local wildlife. While searching for body parts in the outhouse, the pair come across a concealed basement adorned with medical diagrams, encyclopaedias and a cobweb-ridden cassette player. There is also a bathtub which, unbeknownst to them, is concealing a naked woman (she has breathing apparatus on and the water is somewhat murky). Plus there is a severed tail in the fridge.
The woman is a Huldra, a forest creature of Norwegian folklore. The dead man had captured her as a child and raised her into adulthood – all as part of a secretive scientific experiment. Naturally, the innocent looks mask a potential for ferocity, yet Thale is not a film to compare to the likes of Species or Splice. Indeed, those expecting genre thrills in the manner of your typical horror or fantasy output are likely to be disappointed. Certainly, the folklore angle prompts companionship with recent cult favourite Troll Hunter, but it’s worth pointing out that Thale was a low-budget affair made over a number of years by its director primarily in his father’s basement.
Such inauspicious beginnings have led Aleksander Nordaas (who also writes, shoots, edits, set decorates and associate produces as well as directs) to focus more on character. In many ways Thale is more concerned with the friendship of Leo and Elvis than it is a de-tailed forest dweller. The pair, firm pals in their youth, have grown apart over the years and now find themselves to be very different people: Leo is calm and controlled, Elvis less so; Leo has been diagnosed with lung cancer, Elvis has become a father. As the two men wait in the basement for someone more qualified to deal with their situation, they become reacquainted. And yet Thale also resists becoming too talky – interspersed are dreamlike (and occasionally nightmarish) flashbacks to the woman’s upbringing.
Nordaas recognises the potential limitations of his project and so is careful never to stretch himself too far. CGI is used sparingly and, though budgetary shortcomings are apparent when it comes to the overall polish, is all the better for it. Furthermore, he never extends the plot beyond its means resulting in a rather brisk 75 minute running time that sticks to the essentials. Of course, some may argue that they are the wrong kind of essentials as we rarely head into action territory, but the end results are rather enticing. I sniff a minor cult following.
Thale comes to the UK courtesy of Metrodome, though it’s a somewhat slim affair. The single-layered disc houses just the feature itself with a choice of DD2.0 and DD5.1 soundtracks. The film, which was shot digitally, is presented at a ratio of 1.78:1 (anamorphically enhanced) and comes across as clean and crisp. Any issues with the visuals (at times things can look a bit flat) would appear to be inherent in its original production with no ill-effects resulting in the transfer to disc. The soundtrack similarly fares well and presents no problems. English subtitles are burnt into the image.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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