Thursday, 30 May 2013

Thale (2012)

Thale's all gimmick and no twist
We’ve seen both Rare Exports short films on Youtube as well as the Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale feature. The Nordic re-imagining of the Santa Claus tale worked not because it wasn’t just a quirky repackaging of Santa Claus as a horror film monster but because that mixed well with the insane subversion of advertising and training manual tropes in the short films, and the children’s adventure genre in the feature film. It’s a principle I’ve tried to highlight in my film criticism over the years – a film can’t stand on its own by virtue of its gimmick; there needs to be a gimmick and a twist.

The makers of Thale aren’t familiar with this conjecture and deliver a film that’s all gimmick and no twist. Or if you prefer, all gimmick and no real story to tell. The thale, you see, is a creature out of Swedish fairy tales. The gimmick in the film is it exists in the real world. Two crime scene cleaners stumble upon one very naked and feral girl-woman in a dilapidated shed and... dun dun dun!!! Find out she’s a thale through a series of clues left behind by the recently deceased man whose remains they’re cleaning up. That and the girl’s ability to mind meld with our heroes and show them – and the audience – her entire backstory.

Despite being told like a thriller, there’s no mystery since the gimmick of the film is... the girl’s a thale. You bought a ticket to see a movie about a thale. In terms of a story, there’s barely one delivered. The twist, when it does come, is slight, inconsequential and irrelevant to the events that have been unfolding in the past 60 minutes to build up towards “Yes, she’s a thale!”

Even at a very short 76 minutes, Thale feels at least 60 minutes too long. It would have worked as a short film or even a Youtube demo reel but thanks to very flimsy scriptwriting, doesn’t justify its existence as a feature film.

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