Thale Blu-ray Review
I was intrigued by THALE ever since it was a featured trailer on the iTunes Trailers application for iPhone a few months ago. Let’s run through the checklist: A scary movie about a seemingly foreign world that exists right under our noses? Check. A woman with a furry tail featured semi-nude? Check. Creepy cinematography and an outdated audiocassette machine? Check. Danish film with English subtitles? Check. We should be all set for a fun ride… but THALE doesn’t actually take things all the way and leaves us feeling a bit bewildered when the credits roll.
THALE follows Leo and Elvis, two young men who cleanup crime scenes. Leo is stoic and hardened from his work. Elvis is the sensitive newbie who can’t hold his lunch. When they are called to a remote estate where an old man had died several months prior, they discover much more than they could have imagined. Near the outhouse they discover a tunnel that leads down into the earth. Inside are several rooms filled with frightening paraphernalia, gas masks and tubes of what appear to be failed medical experiments.
In the backmost room, Elvis discovers an audiocassette player, next to a tape marked “THALE” and a date. There are several of these tapes with different years lying near the player. Most are filled with ambient noise, but after searching Elvis discovers something. There is an older man’s voice talking to someone, a woman who never responds. Gradually the tapes become more cryptic and tense; the man is obviously afraid of the woman and deeply disturbed by something that has happened. When a nude woman suddenly appears from a bathtub behind them, filled with a milky substance, Elvis and Leo realize they’ve uncovered something far more insidious than they could have believed.
I enjoy both indie and horror films in general – if they’ve made it big enough to have a blu-ray or solid theatrical/festival release, then I would generally consider myself a fan. THALE succeeds in a lot of ways Indie films tend to stumble, the foremost and most obvious example being the acting. The cast of THALE is small, but the film is extremely intimate so the limited cast feels completely appropriate. Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) are both wonderfully cast and bring the gravity of their situation directly to the heart of the audience. Silje Reinåmo as title character Thale gives an intense and amazing performance, despite never speaking a word during the entire film.
The beauty of THALE is also its undoing. The story unfolds slowly but with tension that will keep you clutching your seat. I watched THALE in a dark room in the middle of the night, and I found myself getting up several times to check on noises that I heard because they so closely matched the sounds utilized so beautifully in THALE. My problem with THALE, though, is that there is never really any payoff for the suspense that builds. The pacing feels great until you hit about an hour in, when things feel like they should come off the rails.
Maybe it is a testament to foreign filmmakers that they don’t feel the need to go overboard but to me it just feels anti-climactic. My other issue must be taken up with their marketing department. THALE is a suspenseful thriller but it is NOT a horror film. To brand it as such implies some further weight the movie never quite achieves. Overall I would highly recommend THALE to anyone interested in the suspense genre, but I don’t think it is one for horror aficionados. Sadly, the Blu-ray lacks ANY special features, which makes this an even harder sell.
Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) The presentation of THALE is certainly adequate, though it does have some of the hallmarks of foreign low-budget films in the video feeling a little too PBS/old British presentation. The color schemes are very carefully presented and the unsaturated world in the hidden rooms greatly contrasts the natural beauty of the surrounding area.
Audio: (Norwegian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0) The audio on THALE absolutely shines. There are some moments where you feel like you are truly in the room with these three folks and this owes much to the phenomenal use of sound mixing and scoring. I highly recommend utilizing the original Norwegian rather than listening to the English dubbing, which is just awful.