Thale is a relatively short (about 80 minutes) 2013 Norwegian film written and directed by Aleksander L. Nordaas, director of the award-winning film In Chambers. It has consistently made its way to top horror movie lists over the last few years, so you might be mildly confused by its appearance here on Little Dragon Cthulhu. Despite being billed as a horror movie, I consider it solidly speculative, more science fiction than horror. This might also explain the mixed reviews you may see on websites like Rotten Tomatoes. I will say outright: Thale does not watch like most horror movies you are accustomed to. It’s like Splice, but with fewer deaths and significantly less violence.
Thale is the titular character of the film, a humanoid woman with a tail and the result of genetic experimentation by military scientists. Thale is actually based on a Scandinavian folkloric creature called a hulder, which I find nearly identical to the nymphs of Greek mythology, but are also commonly compared to merfolk, sirens, and succubi.
The other two main characters are partners in a biohazard cleaning company. One, Elvis, is more than a little queasy about the job and arguably oversensitive throughout the movie, the other, Leo, has a hardened stomach and comes across as rather emotionless. The pair discover Thale in a hidden cellar and Elvis begins trying to work out who she is and what happened to her, after Leo stops her from strangling him. Over the course of the movie, more and more information about who she is, who the man who kept her was, and what the hulder are. Another faction also comes into play: those pesky military scientists. They sweep in with the climax and the hulder sweep them back out for the resolution, taking Thale with them. Near the end we are also treated to a little more insight into Leo and Elvis as characters, giving us some explanation of Leo’s emotionlessness and Elvis’ quick bonding with Thale.
I enjoyed watching Thale and applaud Nordaas for making such a standout indie movie, which has gained worldwide attention. It’s most certainly a movie worth watching. So why 4 stars? The concept is fresh and interesting, the characters are different, Nordaas didn’t force in a romantic subplot, and the movie was graphically interesting. I dock it a star because the hulder wound up being used as a deus ex machina, so the climax and resolution left me underwhelmed compared to the exceptional character and story building.