The Hollywood Reporter -- Science and folklore make an uncomfortable match in Aleksander L. Nordaas's Thale, the oddly plotted story of two men who discover a huldra (a Scandinavian forest creature with a woman's body and an animal's tail) and spend much of the film sitting around waiting for others to come tell them what to do about her. Intriguing to a point but unable to exploit its mysteries in a satisfying way, the Norwegian import will have a hard time with American genre auds and disappoint those expecting more mythopoetic arthouse fare.

Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard), employees of the crime-scene-specializing No Shit Cleaning Service, are combing the woods collecting parts of an old man's cadaver when they stumble into a subterranean hideout: hidden rooms full of strange medical equipment and spoiled food. It's a place of Seven-like decay, but Nordaas doesn't try to give us the creeps -- instead having his heroes poke around with more curiosity than apprehensiveness. Then a naked, mute woman jumps out of a bathtub full of milky fluid, evidently having been there (breathing through a tube) for untold weeks or months.

Where most storytellers would make this encounter the start of a larger adventure, Nordaas spends the rest of the short film here, relying for dramatic tension on a vaguely defined threat of outsiders who may be hunting this woman, Thale. Thale can't speak, and the script's means of exposition is both lazy and needlessly cryptic: She mind-melds with the curious, sensitive Elvis, putting her hands on his face so he can glimpse fragments of her youth. We hear the voice of the scientist who rescued her from captors and raised her in secrecy, surgically removing her tail and, er, storing it in an icebox lest her "thermal signature" be tracked. Or something.

Superfluous subplots in the personal lives of these men -- a secret battle with cancer, an unacknowledged daughter -- have thematic links to Thale's story but are addressed too cursorily to enhance it. A climax involving CGI beasties and men with guns adds some welcome action but leaves plenty of questions unanswered.

Production Company: Yesbox Productions

Cast: Silje Reinamo, Jon Sigve Skard, Erlend Nervold, Morten Andresen, Sunniva Lien, Roland ├ůstrand

Director-Screenwriter-Director of photography-Editor: Aleksander L. Nordaas

Producer: Bendik Heggen Stronstad

Executive producers: Tore Fredrik Dreyer, Gudrun Giddings, Lars Andreas Hellebust, Lars L. Maroy

Music: Raymond Enoksen, Geirmund Simonsen

No rating, 77 minutes

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