In ‘Hatching’ – the directorial debut of Hanna Bergholm, a young girl hatches a slimy bird monster out of an egg she secretly nests in her bed, and that’s not even the scariest part! Her mother is a mummy blogger, trying to live vicariously through her daughter!
Siiri Solalinna (in her debut film) plays Tinja, a 12-year-old gymnast whose image obsessed mother (Sophia Heikkilä) uses every moment of her family’s life to craft her mummy-blog “Lovely Everyday Life”. Unsurprisingly, all of these moments are cropped and filtered to fit the aesthetic she’s aiming for.
I have one horror movie cliché I will never get bored with – little children singing a nursery rhyme or a lullaby as the opening credits roll. Hearing the innocent yet creepy sound of a young child singing in a horror film never fails to send a little chill up my spine. Adding onto my already chilly spine is the first introduction to the family, a saccharine montage with all the tropes and filters that have made family bloggers a huge market.
The sweet, manufactured for the internet moment is interrupted by a raven crashing into the picture-perfect house breaking crystal glasses, lamps, and an opulent chandelier in its attempt to make an escape. As the family tries in vain to help it, Tinja manages to gently wrap the bird in a blanket to release it outside, cue Mummy Dearest who breaks the birds neck without flinching and hands the bird back to her daughter to be thrown out with the trash. Woken in the night by the screams of the reanimated raven, Tinja is summoned outside. She finishes the job, beating it to a pulp, and assuages her guilt by taking home the large, speckled egg she discovers nearby.
Nesting the constantly growing egg in her large teddy bear is the one part of her life that Tinja doesn’t have her Mother hovering overhead. These moments are beautiful and the cinematography by Jarkko T. Laine is stunning. The use of shadow and warming colours is a perfect juxtaposition to the outside world, where the lights are almost blinding, and the colour is stark. This makes the compassion I was feeling for Tinja so much stronger, as the moments with her egg are the warmest and calmest that we see her experience during the film.
When the egg eventually hatches, the little creature that emerges is named Alli, who is spindly legged and slimy with large eyes and a raven’s beak that I found to be as adorable as it was slimy, and she is very slimy.
The bird monster is a creation by animatronic master, Gustav Hoegen. He’s created impressive animatronics for Star Wars and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and his creation here could be one of the best body horror monsters since David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
Ilja Rautsi’s script is a classic monster movie, using the humanoid bird creature as an external representation of Tinja’s repressed emotions. As Tinja’s anxieties grow, her reliance on Alli increases, creating a co-dependency between the two that turns violent. The monster metaphor is laid out in plain sight, but it I never felt like I was being beaten over the head by it. Several of the details Rautsi has written are for the viewer to speculate, saving the gorier moments for Alli’s continuing growth.
It’s not hyperbolic to say that the film’s strength is Siiri Solalinna’s performance. She plays Tinja so authentically that I wanted to comfort her, she never falls into the annoying little girl in a horror movie hole. Her actions never seem extreme because Rautsi’s script has made her situation so dismal that the escalating violence in the film is truly out of Tinja’s hands.
Bergholm crafts a richly designed film, integrating the visual style into the storytelling. Tinja’s family home, optimised for social media content, oversaturated in white, gold, pink, and aggressive floral wallpaper, becomes a surreal and scary space. The costume design works to isolate the family from others within the film, everything is so manicured and crafted that the darkness that explodes into their life is even more apparent.
I’ve wanted to see a horror movie that was more than just another remake with disposable, sexy teens ready to be murdered by chainsaw. Hatching has given me that. The visuals were appealing and the main character at risk, Tinja, is someone that I didn’t want to see hurt. What makes Hatching stand out is that it’s a contemporary fairy-tale with the pressure of social media standing in as the big bad wolf, showing that hiding away the darkest parts of life will only give them strength to engulf the social media façade.