Thale (2013) Review
Thale summons an interesting question: What would you do if you encountered a mute woman who was born with a tale? Elvis and Leo have some ideas, although they certainly weren’t prepared for this encounter. Thale delivers, and delivers big!
We’ve seen some absolutely brilliant genre pieces birthed by the Norwegians over the last decade. The first two Cold Prey features are absolutely genius (the second unravels like an outright remake of the original Halloween 2… a rewarding remake at that), Rare Exports (a Finnish/Norwegian production) is a terrifically unsettling Christmas horror flick, and nowThale joins the ranks of top notch Norwegian terror. This one is gnarly, plain and simple.
Elvis and Leo, two guys with the least pleasant job conceivable (they work on an extreme cleanup crew known as the No Shit Cleaning Service), are called to pick up the pieces of what was once a man. When they arrive to take care of business however, they discover that this particular job holds some surprises in waiting. Decades old canned goods clutter a messy basement, which is adorned by strange medical blueprints of the human anatomy, as well as a few… not so human blueprints. But that’s just the beginning of their discoveries. Nestled beneath ground, tucked away in a partitioned off portion of the basement they discover a woman. But, she’s not your typical woman, she’s something else entirely. Oh, and that severed tale in the freezer? Yeah, that was once attached to said woman. Creepy.
There are some compelling layers to this feature, but you’re going to need to check it out for yourself to explore the ins and outs. At just 77 minutes runtime, there’s much to be taken in, and too much to potentially spoil by diving head first into the story’s details. What can be said is this: the character development, and the revelations that spill on to the screen are extremely engaging.Thale is as much about character development as it is about monsters. The care that writer/director Aleksander Nordaas invests in each onscreen personality is greatly appreciated and highly rewarding. We care about our players, and we sympathize with them, slightly haunted by the assortment of obstacles each face – pertinent to this specific case, as well as troubles away from work. There’s real life in our players, and that creates a tangible sense of connectivity with viewers. Even the perceived antagonist taps a nerve.
The cast, while minimal (only three characters sit at the forefront of this one) are shockingly convincing. There isn’t a single misfire to find onscreen; Silje Reinåmo turns in a touching performance as the picture’s titular character, and Erlend Nervold as well as Jon Sigve Skard add a whole new level of substance to the term “unlikely hero” as Elvis and Leo, respectively. They’re riveting in their responses to the unforeseen debacle they stumble into, and all three players work seamlessly off one another. This is a trio destined to share screen time together. The fact that they’ve got a platform as polished as Thale to showcase their abilities as thespians is just a blessing, and a lucky treat for viewers.
As beautiful as the film is, there are two issues that can be signaled as faults. There are a few questions brought to light in the picture’s waning moments that go (oddly) unanswered, but the truth is, even this minor hiccup doesn’t seem to steal any of Thale’s thunder. In fact, I’m not sure calling these loose ends weaknesses is even appropriate. It seems as though Nordaas intentionally leaves a little mystery lingering in the air. My other issue? Some questionable CG monsters, but the fact is, these iffy visuals don’t consume more than 35-40 seconds of screen time, so again, I’m not entirely comfortable labeling the visuals as subpar, or disappointing. Thaleis the kind of film that excels in so many areas that it’s hard to sit back and nitpick.
For those who crave something refreshing from the genre, this is a movie that will not only appease, it should leave you downright overjoyed. Thale is a beautiful production packed with mesmerizing performances, fine camera work, a strong story and three characters that elicit a plethora of emotions. In fact, I don’t think there’s much more that could have been done to make this film superior to what it already is. Thale is gripping from the get go, and finishes rather strong. Do yourself a favor: watch this one – the very first chance you get!