The debut feature of Hanna Bergholm, the appreciably twisted, squirm-inducing body-horror creature-feature, Hatching is one hell of a calling card. It’s a film with a metaphor so blatant that it’s practically slapping you across the face – the unravelling of a mother/daughter relationship by way of a giant, pulsating egg, and what hatches from it – but it’s in the ways it picks this central metaphor apart, and the creeping, dread-soaked atmosphere that Hatching excels.
The film opens tellingly, with a scene that feels something like a modern-day revision of the iconic Blue Velvet opening sequence, all suburban idyll just barely hiding the violence and rot that rests beneath. Tinja (Siiri Solalinna, startlingly good in a tricky, physical role) is the young daughter of a wellness-blogger played by Sophia Heikkilä, who is obsessed with cultivating the image of pristine domestic heaven to her unseen legions of followers. We see the four members of the family – including a milquetoast husband and a ratbag younger son – and marvel at the spitting image the children create of their parents. As with any cinematic portrayal of suburban bliss, however, there is a twist to come, first in the form of a crow that gets into their polished McMansion and is summarily killed by Tinja’s mother. Later, Tinja discovers that the crow left something behind – an egg, gently pulsating red. What emerges from the rapidly expanding egg is a sight to see – without spoiling anything, the film takes a left-turn into kitschier, ickier horror around this point and, pleasingly, never looks back.
It’s a well-performed, grisly, if slightly obvious thing – a film with very little interest in subtlety. What allows it to work is a sly willingness to lean into goofiness in places.
The wonderful creature design, a mix of puppetry and special effects makeup by Prometheus and Star Wars designer Gustav Hoegen, is a winking combination of creepiness, tenderness and outright oddity that proves to be Hatching’s thrumming engine. It’s a testament to the effectiveness of practical effects to draw strong reactions out of an audience – here utilised in some truly unsettling and disgusting body horror – where lazier productions might have settled for something computer generated. As the film races toward a tense but thematically messy climax, Hatching emerges as slightly confused in what it’s trying to say, but is never less than engaging in the attempt to express it.
Movie title: Hatching (Bergholm, 2022)
Movie description: Finnish filmmaker Hanna Bergholm has crafted a delightfully icky, if somewhat blunt piece of body horror. It’s a startlingly strong case for the ongoing relevance of practical effects.
Date published: June 2, 2022
Author: Ilja Rautsi
Director(s): Hanna Bergholm, ,
Actor(s): Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen