ThaleFollowing on from the rather wonderful Norwegian modern fairy tale Troll Hunter, now we have another attempt at updating fairy-tale and folklore tropes for the modern age with Thale.

I would dispel any comparisons with that movie from your mind though before watching Thale because it’s very much a different film. Whereas Troll Hunter was all about the thrill and the action, Thale is a slow burn movie reminiscent of Vincenzo Natali’s underrated Splice from a few years ago.

Thale starts off with crime scene cleaners Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) cleaning an especially bloody cabin in the forest. In the basement they find what seems like a lab/life support set up and find a young woman named Thale (Silje Reinamo) living under some kind of liquid in a bathtub. Through the research records they find as well as tapes left by the unfortunate victim upstairs they learn that Thale was discovered as a child in the forest and had a tail that was amputated. Meanwhile something in the forest, some kind of elemental and ancient force is closing in anxious to get the lost woman back.

I’m not sure if it was a budgetary constraint or the intention all along but Thale is barely an hour long, it clocks in at around an hour and ten. As a result you do lose some things that you would have gotten in a longer feature which would have much improved the story. For a start the cleaners Elvis and Leo are not very well established or fleshed out. Both seem to have aimlessly drifted into their jobs, they have been friends for a long time, Elvis pukes at the sight of almost anything (puzzling considering his line of work) and one of them has cancer and the other has a kid. That’s pretty much it for them two though; a longer narrative would have built this relationship up more so that you would have cared.

As for Thale herself, her origins remain vague which is both a blessing and a curse. We learn everything about her from endless close-ups of her frightened, animal eyes and drifting shots as the camera pans around the lab whilst the research tapes play. This takes up the core of the running time but doesn’t really build any tension or create an atmosphere. When whatever is in the forest starts making its presence known, the quality of the effects work is so poor and is another case of a director not understanding his budgetary limitations. The final act is a confusing blend of confusing new characters and motivations and a final shot that would have been moving in a more considered and longer film.

The reason I like Thale overall is you can see a fascinating idea there and if you treat it as a slightly longer episode of Tales from the Crypt or Masters of Horror then it’s a pretty entertaining if slight diversion. Despite the lack of character building, the performances are all round of a high standard. Silje Reinamo is the stand out as the title character, really convincing as a feral woman but the two friends played by Erlend Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard convince as people who have known each other for a while and have a history even though we aren’t privy to what that is. Director Aleksander Nordaas has a knack from framing a shot and doing things with the set and natural production design even though he has limited means.

Thale is the kind of film I can imagine Hollywood chucking money at so that Aleksander Nordaas can go over there and make a full feature out of it to do his idea justice. It’s quite possible that film would be a Del Toro esque masterpiece but until that happens this slight but entertaining introduction will have to do.