Monday, April 22, 2013

THALE (2012) movie review

Thale (2012) d. Aleksander L. Nordaas (Norway)

Sad sack Elvis (Erlend Nervold) is given the opportunity to earn a little cash by longtime pal Leo (Jon Sigve Skard), although it soon becomes clear that the forensic crime scene clean-up detail is a scene not well suited to our sensitive soul. Between bouts of puking, Elvis stumbles onto a hidden room filled with old audiotape recordings, scribbled notes, decades-old canned goods and a bathtub containing a mysterious milky substance and something far more mysterious below the surface...

Considering the beguiling poster art and publicity stills that emerged earlier this year, it’s no great surprise to discover the submerged creature – attached to breathing and feeding apparatuses – is a strange and beautiful humanoid forest creature from Nordic folklore called a huldra; specifically one that has been captured, semi-domesticated and given the name “Thale” (pronounced “tall-ay”).

Played to subtle, feral perfection by Silje Reinamo, we instantly empathize with this wondrous entity yet fear what she might be capable of, especially since Elvis cannot refrain from disturbing everything in his path. (Seriously, a get-ya-wasted-quick drinking game would involve how many times Leo tells Elvis not to touch or do something followed immediately by the latter touching or doing the forbidden object/task.) However, due to his natural curiosity and the shack’s former occupant’s predilection for recording experimental session notes, we soon learn quick a great deal about Thale, as well as the two separate outsider factions seeking her out.

The film is a challenging construct, fulfilling and flawed in equal measure. The performances and relationships are all top-notch, as is writer/director Nordaas’ central conceit, but there’s an awful lot of exposition delivered via the convenient device of telepathic messages being conveyed to our two human protagonists whenever Thale comes in contact with them.

Requiring an equal amount of generosity are the CGI huldra forerunners that spend just a little too much time in front of the camera – much like the Gollum-like tykes in Andres Muschietti’s Mama, one sorely wishes an alternative method of realization could have been found; these digital disappointments just don’t cut it, even considering the movie’s meager $1.2 million budget. To be honest, I would have preferred not to see the huldra at all in their corporeal form with this low a wow-factor, especially since Reinamo’s incarnation is so superbly cultivated. Evoking favorable comparisons to Delphine Cheneac’s Dren from Splice, take note, dear blood brethren: This is your horror/fantasy performance of the year.

When Nordaas grounds his fantastic premise in realism and character interaction, the story is much more successful than when he attempts to flesh out backstory and/or introduce predictable third-act antagonists. There are definitely enough rewards to justify an overall recommendation, but there’s no denying the niggling nitpicking that creeps in throughout.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

THALE arrives on DVD from Xlrator Media April 23, 2013. Available for Amazon pre-order HERE

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