Thale (2012)

Long nights and constant snow must do something terrible to a mind.  Often Scandinavian films appeal to me due to their isolation and dour outlook.  I imagine Minnesotans and Wisconsonians the same way.  This flick is no exception, it’s execution is rocky though.  First some backstory is in order.  I had no idea going into the flick so afterwards I had to consult the font of all knowledge (Wikipedia) to get a clue as to what I had just witnessed.  A huldra is a creature of Scandinavian folklore who’s regional names translate into “Lady of the Forest” and “Pine Tree Mary.”  The mythology surrounding them is similar to that of nymphs or dryads.  They often appear as beautiful naked women with cows’ tails.   Each geographical feature has keeper or warden entities and a huldra is associated with the forest.  Their interactions with humans are cagey at best.  Many charcoal burners believed the huldra watched their kilns and warned them when there was a problem.  Other huldra would lure men into the woods for sex.  If the man satisfied her, he was rewarded.  If not, he was killed…no pressure.

Thale is such a creature.  She is silent and timid.  She’s discovered by crime scene cleaners Leo and Elvis as they are trying to find the rest of a corpse.  Leo is always calm and unflappable while Elvis spends much of his time puking in a bucket.  The corpse from the current case turns out to be the girl’s guardian who was torn apart by the environs creatures after death.  While searching the isolated structure they stumble upon a series of rundown rooms with odd equipment in them.  Thale is kept in a sort of stasis submerged in a milky substance.  Through physical clues, cassette tapes, and even a telepathic link with Thale, Leo and Elvis are able to glean that she was taken from a military lab by a disgruntled officer who wished to protect and study her.  He has removed her tail and kept her submerged because she could not be detected while she was “under the waves.”  The two botch the deceased officer’s plan when they bring her out and give the severed tail back to her.  Other huldra are able to sense her presence and the military is also able to track her again placing Leo and Elvis in the middle of the factions who are battling to capture or free the scared Thale.

THALE is going to be rough on the American horror audience.  Some with a predilection for foreign films may like it but the story as it stands is vastly alien as it is based on an entirely unfamiliar mythology.  It does little, if anything, to explain the mythos of the huldra.  They are just these creatures that live in the woods.  The army had captured one to study it and it wanted it back for some vague nefarious purpose.  The character of Thale seems totally helpless.  She relied on the officer for protection and then she relies on the hapless cleaners and then her own kind.  It plays as very misogynistic considering that she is naked much of the time, has to be kept away from the world, cannot help herself, and symbolically looses her unique identity when her tail is removed for her own good…  She does start to kick soldier and scientist ass finally but by then the feeling is it wouldn’t have happened that way without Leo and Elvis’ bumbling intervention.  The story is a one setting piece for the most part it takes place in the shelter and its environs.  The gore is simple but works.  Overall I can’t recommend THALE due to its slow pace and the unexplained mythos-it isn’t even glossed over-there is some action (very little) but no horror.  As the Ain’t It Cool blurb on the cover attests, it is unique…but not amazing.  

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