Horrorthon Day 23 – Thale

Written by Greg B

Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) are two clean-up guys. Not the kind of cleaners who scrub toilets or wipe windows for a living, but the cats that have to use a pair of long nose pliers to yank some guys teeth out of the ceiling after the poor bastard blows his brains out with a shotgun. When the guys take a jaunt out into the woods for what initially seems to be a bog standard clean-up-the-bloody-puddle-that-used-to-be-a-man-job they find more than they bargained for. While exploring the shed, Elvis stumbles across a set of steps that lead to a room that looks like something between a makeshift lab and a torture chamber. After Leo tells Elvis not to touch anything in the room, Elvis goes ahead and presses play on a tape recorder, and before you can shout ‘deadite!’ a creepy old voice begins emanating from the recorder, speaking messages that seem to be for a child of some kind. Soon after, a naked woman (Silje Reinamo) violently erupts from a bath tub in the room. She displays feral behaviour to begin with, but after the duo feed and clothe her she becomes more sedate. Who is this broad? Is she human? And who are the lanky, hairy black mutants from the woods that are circling the cottage?

(‘Forensic clean-up’ Not the most glamorous of professions it seems..)

There isn’t much too Thale and I found it to be quite a perplexing movie. On the one hand, the plot feels like it would have been better suited to a short film format and the appearance of some gun-toting government meanies seemed kinda redundant in terms of plot development. Whereas, on the other hand, the film crams in a lot of set pieces in order to bolster its running time. I mean slow motion murder sequences are great for the DP’s showreel and all but they aren’t that scary after you’ve seen five or six of them in about two minutes. Also we learn that Elvis and Leo have been friends since childhood, but havent been that close of late. Elvis is the clumsy novice who can’t stop puking at work and perpetually denies reality by cancelling calls from his estranged girlfriend, while Leo is the no-bullshit, hardworking, tough guy. Early in the flick we learn that Elvis has a five year old daughter that he never bothered to tell Leo about.

This lets the audience know that Elvis and Leo’s relationship hasn’t been the healthiest of late which is fine and dandy. It’s just that this little narrative seed doesn’t grow into anything, we don’t learn any further important info about the buddies except that Leo has a potentially terminal illness that he didn’t bother telling Elvis about. Basically this revelation has little or no impact, as the audience simply hasn’t been given enough reasons to care. And so hearing Elvis shout in terror for his buddy while the military have them both hooded and tied to chairs in the forest, with Elvis being interrogated by a jaded scientist who brandishes a gun, wasn’t heart wrenching or upsetting, it was just a part of another boring, functional set piece.

(Now what would Freud make of that one?)

The creepy tape recordings of the weird old man are effectively sinister, especially the first one we hear during the film’s cold open. But the dodgy flashbacks that show us Thale and the arm of her flannel shirt wearing foster dad removes any sense of mystery that existed in previous plays of the crackly cassette recordings. Thale is also a confusing character. We learn that her carer /foster dad /Kidnapper snipped her tail and shoved it into a freezer so she could be controlled and wouldn’t be too attracted to the skinny creatures who prowl around the backwoods. When the fellas first release her from her milky bath, she is scared (sure she chokes Elvis but Leo coaxes her off him without too much difficulty) and meek, like a lost kid. However when the military boot boys make their entrance she metamorphoses into a naked badass. We are told to be wary of her peachy exterior and that it is merely a cover for some uber dangerous mythological powers. This peaks expectations, but when she finally lets loose and lashes out it’s as predictable as Splice and frankly not scary in the least.

After a genuinely spooky and promising first act, Thale veers off course and starts to fragment all over the place. In fact it ends up being quite a sentimental, gloopy film about the power of friendship and how it’s never too late to fix broken ties in some form or another. Now while this may be accused of stinking of cheese to the highest degree, I think that there is nothing inherently wrong with a happy ending in a horror flick. It’s just that Thale’s narrative is a bit of a mess, in that the film relishes in its earlier scenes of gory violence and tacking a downright corny, high-key ending onto what is supposed to be a tense, scare filled chiller, just seems incongruous.

(Oh dear, it even looks like the scourge of meth has reached rural Norway..)

This movie starts with a lot of brooding menace and narrative potential, but within twenty minutes you feel like you know exactly where the plot is headed (and I ain’t even versed in Norse mythology or nuthin’), and overall I thought this was a wasted opportunity to spin what could have been a nifty little horror tale. I mean this isn’t to say that Thale doesn’t look and sound great. Aleksander Nordaas shoots, edits and directs and does a fantastic job (at least in the first two capacities). The cramped cabin and forest setting effectively adds to the feeling that the characters are truly in the middle of nowhere and therefore very vulnerable. The art direction (by Alen Grujic) is also worthy of a nod, as one can almost smell the rotting food and feel the sticky surfaces within Thales hideous living quarters. However the high quality of the technical aspects of the film are not enough to save it from being ultimately, kinda forgettable.

(Actor’s motivation for the bulk of this flick: stare apathetically at the gross thing)

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