Monday, April 01, 2013

Thale: A Huldra’s Tale

Huldra are not your typical mythological woodland creatures.  These tailed women from Scandinavian myth are very blonde and can be a lot of trouble.  Two forensic cleaners might have one on their hands in Aleksander Nordaas’s Thale (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Elvis is not really cut out for his friend’s Leo’s industrial strength cleaning service.  Their primary gigs are grisly crime scenes.  They do not seem to bother Leo much, but they keep Elvis close to a bucket.  Their latest assignment has them scouring about for the pieces of an elderly recluse, killed under mysterious circumstances.  As they proceed, they stumble upon a secret cellar with a naked woman hidden in the bath tub.

It seems the old geezer had kept her prisoner down there since she was a young girl.  While the deceased evidently performed various experiments on her, the cassettes he left behind seem to suggest he was also protecting her from outside parties.  As if on cue, we start to see strange shadowy figures darting through the woods.  The feral Thale, as the old man called her, also bears watching.  Good luck dudes.

Although billed as a horror film, Thale is long on set-up and short on gore.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  There is a bit of character development in their disparate reactions to splattered blood and entrails that pays off later in the film.  Nonetheless, there is not so much to satisfy hardcore genre fans.  Instead, Thale plays like a dark Nordic version of Splash.

Nordaas deliberately emphasizes Thale’s animal-like vulnerability.  Silje Reinåmo taps into that raw primal innocence.  It is a rather brave performance, especially considering she is naked for nearly the entire film.  It is hardly erotic, but Seth MacFarlane will clearly be able to see her breasts.  Erlend Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard are also relatively engaging as the everyman carnage cleaners.  They have bits that stay with viewers well after the initial screening, which says something for the genre.  Unfortunately, the third act’s perfunctory lack of ambition is disappointing.

Considering the dearth of huldra movies previously available, Thale undeniably fills a void.  In terms of tone and subject matter, it has the virtue of being something different.  Despite the simplicity of its narrative, cult film enthusiasts should consider it when it opens this Friday (4/5) in New York at the Cinema Village.