As I write, Sydney’s annual horror film festival, A Night of Horror, swings into its second week. It’s a thrill to be sampling some of the world’s newer and more unusual horror, and though I’ll only be watching a few films this time around, I’ll certainly share what I’ve been looking at.
The first feature to capture my imagination was Aleksander Nordaas’ Thale (Norway, 2012). As festival director Dean Bertram sees it, Scandinavian horror is just beginning to explode onto the global scene in a way similar to Japanese and Korean horror in the late 80s and 90s, with each culture bringing its own distinctively unsettling material to the genre table.
Thale takes as its inspiration the seductive huldra of Scandinavian folklore, a mysterious woodland figure with flowing hair and a tail who resembles both beautiful woman and wizened tree (from what I can gather). The film is notable for its assured cinematography, the arresting clarity of its images and its attention to visceral detail. Nordaas is adept at creating the sort of space, both physical and psychological, which hints at horrific happenings. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite follow through on this stylistic promise, with the result that the first part of the film lags and becomes repetitive. It’s difficult to sustain tension in an enclosed space with three characters, and Thale doesn’t possess the plot twists or dynamic characterisation to succeed in this respect (see The Devil’s Rock  for a similarly low-budget film which does).
Still, like its fellow Norwegian film The Troll Hunter (2010), Thale knits together elements of horror and Norse mythology deftly, and it’s always exciting to see the horror genre extended into hitherto uncharted territory.