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Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/23/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/12/2013
It doesn't seem preposterous to think of scary stories as being a global phenomenon. Every culture has its own network of legends and fears, and these are often expressed through tales which are handed down through the generations. However, a little research will show us that horror films aren't necessarily a universal thing. While the United States, Italy, Japan, China, and England are known for producing horror movies, other parts of the world are not. Northern Europe serves as a good example of this, as only a handful of scary movies have emerged from that part of the world. However, recent years have seen a change in this and we are now getting new entries, such as the bizarre Thale.
Thale introduces us to Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) who works for a company which cleans up crime scenes. As his regular co-worker has been out, Leo has brought in his friend, Elvis (Erlend Nervold), to help him, despite the fact that Elvis gets queasy at the site of blood. The two are asked to take care of the remains of an old man at a lakeside house. While investigating a workshed, Elvis finds a secret room which leads to what appears to be a long-forgotten laboratory. Although Leo tells him to not touch anything, Elvis insists on exploring and eventually finds a woman (Silje Reinamo) in the room. The woman is frightened and appears to be mute. Elvis begins to listen to the tape recordings of the man who worked in the lab and he suspects that something bizarre occurred there. Then, he and Leo begin to hear strange noises coming from the nearby woods.
Suggested by Norwegian folktales, Thale takes place in a world where, eons ago, a group of our ancestors parted ways with humanity and become feral, animalistic creatures. The film proposes that these beings still roam the forests and that the woman in the lab is one of these beings. This is an interesting jumping off point for a movie and it stands to reason that if someone found one of these creatures that they would want to study them. The fact that the woman has been there by herself for years adds a level of sadness to the movie and the production design team did a great job of ageing the rooms.
The problem with Thale is that it's too vague and slow for its own good. Writer/Director Aleksander Nordaas certainly creates an interesting environment and he gives the movie an almost dreamlike feel at times, but there simply isn't enough story to fill things up. This would have made a great short film (and Nordaas has made other shorts), but even at just 77-minutes, Thale really drags at times.
It's OK that the origin of the woman and her kind isn't layered with detail -- it doesn't need to be. It's other areas where the movie elicits a "Huh?" from us, such as when a group of new characters is suddenly introduced in the third act. Where did they come from? The movie really gets bogged down in the middle when Leo and Elvis are waiting for a supervisor to arrive and help them. This contains many minutes where Elvis and the woman simply stare at one another. The woman has a Vulcan mind-meld thing happening where she can show her past memories to Elvis, but these few scenes don't liven things up. Again, Nordaas create an intriguing feel with the film, but I was literally falling asleep in the middle. This portion of the film also introduces personal sub-plots with both Leo and Elvis which are thankfully wrapped up in the end, but still feel unnecessary.
Thale reminds me of going to a meal and ordering the dinner portion when the lunch portion would have been just fine. The movie presents some interesting ideas, offers nice acting, and has a very attractive leading lady, but it simply goes on for too long. Even those used to slower-paced European films will find themselves getting antsy with Thale. Also, be aware that even though this is presented under XLRator Media's "Screamfest" banner, this is more of a fantasy film than a horror film and nothing truly horror-related happens until the finale.
Thale does have one really creepy shot of something moving in the background on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of XLRator Media. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly bright or dark, even in the shadowy lab. The image is a bit soft at times, creating some issues with the level of detail, but the depth is good, most notably in the shots which show the deep forest. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The English subtitles are easy to read. While this film is very quiet at times, the track makes good use of stereo and surround effects in key scenes where something is happening off-screen or something is moving near the characters. The stereo effects show good separation although more detail would have been nice. One explosion displays solid subwoofer action.
The lone extra on the Thale Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.