For the third week in a row, I invested in my Editor’s Pick as my go-to for the weekend and, for the third week in a row, I was happy with my decision. Hatching is a super creepy and surprisingly poignant dark comedy, with more charm than you’d expect, about a family that’s drowning under the pressure of keeping up appearances.
A young girl hopelessly tries to live up to her mother’s exacting standards but when a bird suddenly bursts into the home havoc, the girl catches a glimpse of her mother’s true nature. Left for the dead, the severely wounded bird returns to its nest in the woods where its cries summon the girl to investigate. Finding an unhatched egg, she takes it home and nurtures it in secret but the egg has plenty of its own secrets.
This was a very intriguing debut feature for Hanna Bergholm because it’s a delicate balance between a creature feature and a family psychological horror that could have easily gone off the rails. Fortunately, Ilja Rautsi, the writer of shorts such as Night of the Living Dicks and Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, has the perfect sense of humor to inform this very unique blend. It’s a slow burn for a while because the character dynamics within the family need to be firmly established in order to make the payoff worthwhile. From the overbearing mother’s combination of phoniness and arrogance to her emasculated doormat of a husband to their clingy son and outcast daughter, each domino has to fall.
Bergholm got to work with a wickedly smart script but she also found the right pacing for this story and made sure to showcase her actors bringing it to life. This could have easily gone down the well-worn path that many creature horror films have followed in the path (and likely still been effective as such) but, as I said, the meat and potatoes is really the family dynamic.
This was Siiri Solalinna’s first role but she was great as Tinja. It’s a very physically demanding performance from her but she does a fantastic job of cultivating sympathy and that’s a big get because she’s really the only one you have sympathy for. Sophia Heikkileä makes it easier to have sympathy for her on-screen daughter. Her character crosses all kinds of boundaries and is so insanely selfish, but she’s great at it.
Jani Volanen is very good as well playing Tinja’s dad. His character is just there for the photo op but there are a couple of scenes where he really nails the idea of this guy trapped in a loveless marriage, with no self-esteem. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the portrayal of the extramarital love interest. That character is almost never portrayed in a positive light, but Reino Nordin’s Tero was actually a fully-fledged person and a surprisingly good man. That character helps establish who the mother really is and it was a nice turn by Nordin to not be the cliche.
The special effects teams did a really nice job with the creature that does hatch from that egg. It took a lot of people to make it all work but I appreciate the use of practical effects, especially for stuff like this. It created a more nuanced approach to those creature interactions on set and actually conjured up some attachment to it as well. As the creature gradually transforms, the tangible approach also makes the transition less jarring and the prosthetics and make-up team brought it all together nicely.
I don’t want to give too much away so let me just say it’s not your average creature feature, but it butters its bread in that in-between. I was sold on the concept before I ever stepped into the theaters, but I enjoyed seeing an even quirkier film than I expected with a much bigger funny bone than I anticipated. This one has a pretty darn good shot of taking home my Weirdest Movie of the Year award.
Recommendation: If you like the horror genre, this is an interesting entry into that realm. See it for the performances and the surprising structure.
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