Written by Ilja Rautsi
Directed by Hanna Bergholm
In American culture, a fraction of the populace has been lost & enamored in the concept of internet celebrity. This often manifests as a desire to be an “influencer,” typically a poster on Instagram promoting products to their followers. For people who can’t ascertain a particular talent or passion due to living in a society that leaves its people exhausted from extracting their labor, being an influencer feels like a “get rich quick” scheme. People hope to escape the drudgery of everyday life by cultivating a fanbase around their internet persona. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing. That’s the thing with capitalism; it rarely offers the idea of introspection or knowing one’s self; instead, it encourages us to perform so that we can be accepted into an artificial norm majority. Well, it seems it’s not just the United States experiencing this, as this horror picture from Finland is interested in examining the phenomenon.
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is a 12-year-old gymnast, having taken up the sport at her mother’s demands. Mother (Sophia Heikkilä) is a former figure skater whose career was cut short due to an injury. Now she’s obsessed with turning her family and life into fodder for a burgeoning influencer career. During filming one of her videos with the family, a crow flies in through an open window. Tinja catches the crow in a blanket, but her mother snaps its neck, stunning the little girl. That night, Tinja is pulled out of sleep by the sounds of distant cawing. She slips out of the house and into the nearby woods, where she finds an injured crow and uses a rock to put it out of its misery. Nearby is a nest with a now unattended egg; Tinja brings it home and places it under her pillow. The following day the egg doubles in size. Soon it will get even larger, and what emerges will tear a bloody swath through Tinja’s family.
Where in the 1950s, Norman Rockwell’s art sought to play satirically with the conformist nature of life, a growing number of contemporary filmmakers are taking a similar approach with social media and those who live their lives online. Director Hanna Bergholm is pretty on the nose with her metaphors; the subtext in Hatching is almost the text. I think being obvious always diminishes a piece of art to some extent, but Bergholm makes up for it in her filmmaking skill. The special effects here lean into the practical over the digital, which is always a bonus, in my opinion. Hatching also has some fantastic child acting. Between this and Sweden’s The Innocents, I get the sense that Scandinavia has some of the best child actors. It also means the directors are really good at coaching those performances out of young actors.
Siiri Solalinna has a difficult task because she plays two characters. First, there’s the timid Tinja, who lets her mother essentially bully her. But there is also Alli, the final form of what emerges from the egg where Solalinna can utilize her gymnastics training to contort in disturbing ways and act without needing to remember lines as Alli. It’s a highly feral performance and incredibly impressive because it is so drastically different from Tinja.
Bergholm’s agenda in making the film was to create a horror film for people that might otherwise shy away from the genre because they view it as too frightening. As someone who watches a lot of horror flicks, I think she succeeded. I wasn’t personally scared by anything in the movie but found many of the character work and special effects kept me entertained. A lot is being said about femininity and expectations of mothers & daughters. My only complaint is that I wish it had been more nuanced and not so on the nose about everything. Hatching likely won’t be on my favorite films of the year list, but I would still recommend it for people wanting a horror film that’s different from the American tropes that dominate the genre. Having the perspective of another culture on these elements helps add some fresh ideas to the mix.