Scandanavian horror cinema has a mood and a flavour all its own. Even when dealing with the essentially silly, the ace ”Trollhunter” believed in its subject. The sequence of the billy goats gruff trip-trapping across the bridge (referencing the fairy story) made sense as part of the story when it could have been monumentally stupid. It’s the same approach taken by writer/director Aleksander Nordaas in ”Thale” (pronounced ‘Taal’).
Another close cousin is ”Let The Right One In”. The picture on the screen is one of muted colours, a slow-moving camera and very few outbursts of violence or blood like we’re used to from American horror movies (and the movies that emulate them).
Not that ”Thale” is strictly a horror movie. Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and underling Elvis (Erlend Nervold) run the No Shit Cleaning Company – Leo answering the phone with the company name provides the film’s only real laugh – cleaning crime scenes, dead bodies, etc.
In a remote lake house while removing the remains of an old man, the pair discover a secret bunker in the basement complete with outlandish anatomy diagrams, specimens in jars, a cruddy old tape recorder and a bath full of what seems to be milk.
When Leo goes upstairs to call for help and tells Elvis not to touch anything, the latter straight away starts playing the tapes to hear an elderly man talking to someone encouragingly, a conversation that ends in screams.
In of the film’s brutal shocks, we meet Thale when she explodes up out of the bathtub full of liquid. Mute and apparently terror stricken, the naked young woman treats Leo and Elvis with suspicion before they give her food and something to cover herself, and she gradually seems to trust them.
But while the pair wait for help and try to get Thale to say something, there’s something outside in the woods, stalking closer to the cabin.
Elvis learns a little bit of who/what Thale is and how she came to be left alone in the dank basement through drug-like dream sequences whenever he touches her. We learn she grew from a young girl in the care of the old man in the recordings, normal in every respect except for her fluffy tail, one Elvis and Leo now find cut off and stuffed in a fridge.
Thale, her strange semi-human form and the creatures running around outside are all related, but director Nordaas isn’t that interested in telling you how so explicitly. There might be enough information given in the sequences of Thale’s telepathy, but it’s hard to extract. A crew of unidentified but top secret scientists who evidently know what’s going on show up and take Leo and Elvis prisoner while they try to capture Thale, but even after it all ends in violence not much is given away.
The lack of a traditional plot resolution will frustrate many, but Nordaas has a good eye, a stately approach and a steady camera that’s a pleasant antidote to the war footage style that’s still popular.