A nutty Norwegian mashup of drollery, myth and jolts to the nervous system, “Thale” does a deft dance between grossout comedy and horror fantasy. Still, it’s too wordy by half, saying what it should be showing — which is ironic, given helmer Aleksander L. Nordaas’ able hand, early on, with unspoken, unseen horrors. The pic simply takes on too much mythological baggage to achieve maximum thriller thrust, although Silje Reinamo is eminently watchable as the titular lethal Scandi wood nymph, and brings eloquence to a wordless role. Genre fans may find the whole thing too poetic.
“Thale” starts out purely comedic: Leo (Jon Sigve Skard), a crime-scene cleanup man, is short on staff, so he’s brought along newbie Elvis (Erlend Nervold), who spends most of the time vomiting. Nordaas doesn’t show a lot of what’s turning Elvis’ stomach, and doesn’t really need to; the point is made: Pieces of evidence, and their implications, are often more horrifying than the crime itself.
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There’s a cabin-full of evidence at their next assignment, a remote house in the woods, around which a corpse has been strewn, presumably by animals who’ve found the dead man and distributed his remains. Inside the dwelling, the pair find a decades-old underground lair with weird tape recordings, surgical equipment, a freezer containing a severed tail and a milky looking bathtub containing a mute girl. She turns out to be Thale, a legendary huldra, or wood creature that possesses immense strength and speed. No one can stop her, not even the white-coated assassins who arrive halfway through Leo and Elvis’ increasingly problematic workday.
The secret government conspiracy that’s tossed into the mix of Norwegian forest legend, and the occasional slathering of gore, make for an overload of information, much of it delivered via flashbacks to Thale’s worrisome childhood, or those tape recordings made by the unseen man who rescued her and kept her captive all those years.
Production values are topnotch: The lensing, together with the production design by the very busy Nordaas (who also wrote and edited), help maintain the creepy feel that clings to “Thale” like the sweat that seems to be forever pouring off Elvis’ forehead.