HATCHING. Coming-of-age body horror from Finland
The creators of horror films have proven to us many times that behind a scary, bloody facade full of disgusting monsters, they can hide more or less subtle references to everyday life. To the everyday life in which we live comfortably, and which can be – and often is – the source of our traumas, fears and anxieties. Recently, horror writers have been eager to take up the topic of the Internet, or rather what we are capable of in order to appear on the web and gain popularity in it. Hanna Bergholm’s Hatching also deals with this and makes this topic the starting point for a complex and effective horror fairy tale about an unusual friendship between a girl and the mysterious titular chick.
Hatching opens with scenes showing a happy Finnish family. In a perfect, beautifully decorated house live together 12-year-old Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), who dabbles in gymnastics, her somewhat stubborn brother Matias (Oiva Ollila), gardening father (Jani Volanen) and elegant blogger Mother (Sophia Heikkilä). During the filming of the next episode of the vlog, when the whole family is charmingly posing for a stick-mounted phone that records everything, the idyllic atmosphere is interrupted by the intrusion of a crow into the house. Trying to get out of the living room, the bird destroys the gracefully arranged glasses and dishes. At some point, Tanji manages to capture the uninvited guest. The crow is taken over from her daughter by Mother, who, instead of letting her out, breaks her neck. The previously served vision of idyll is thus seriously undermined.
Although the title of Hanna Bergholm’s debut and the above description of its first scenes may suggest that we are getting another eco-horror, recently popular mainly in indie cinema, Hatching is heading in a completely different direction. After a short satire on vloggers, the film turns into much darker alleys of distorted human feelings and psyche. With the discovery of the egg by Tinja, which the girl decides to secretly take care of, and then raise what hatched from it, Ilja Rautsi’s clever script opens up new possibilities for the audience, which Hanna Bergholm skilfully uses for most of her debut.
A symbol of growing up
Hatching is an incredibly thematically complex creation. At the same time, it tells about the hardships of a girl’s growing up/maturation and motherhood, lack of love, loneliness, upbringing mistakes, neglect, infatuation, striving for perfection and many other things. A bird-like creature hatched from an egg found in the forest first becomes something like Tinja’s child. Taking care of Alli (as the girl calls the monster) is the opposite of how Tinja is taken care of by her Mother. A 12-year-old is like a bird locked in a golden cage. It’s an ornament that should only be a source of pride for a Mother, who should be the best gymnast because that’s what her mother wants. As Alli grows up, she causes the main character of the film even more worries. Presented in pastel colors, but in essence, Tinja’s bleak life turns into horror. The film features more or less subtle metaphors associating girlish puberty with monstrosity (including a visual joke about the first menstruation, which actually submerges the Father figure even more in the viewers’ eyes). The local monster is therefore a symbol of growing up, and also represents Tinja’s suppressed (mainly by Mother) emotions.
It is worth appreciating the wonderful decision to use an animatronic puppet and how it was brought to “life” by Gustav Hoegen and Conor O’Sullivan. Thanks to their work, Alli brings to mind such cute, yet ugly creatures as E.T. in its early development, only to transform into terrifying monsters straight from Cronenberg’s older works. Also noteworthy is the interesting performance of the debuting Siiria Solalinna, who was able to capture the pain, longing, fear and loneliness of Tinja’s character in a natural way, and above all the phenomenal Sophia Heikkilä in the role of the overbearing, simple, but also somewhat lost Mother. In addition to the aforementioned monster in technical terms, Hatching also deserves respect for the interior design that contrasts wonderfully with the real face of the family and for playing with the colors of the costumes while Tinja is in different moods.
And although something grates in the last act of Hatching, and I even have the impression that Bergholm simply overdid it at this point, her full-length debut brought me a lot of satisfaction. Hatching is a strong, disgusting and bizarre film where it should be. It’s also smart, sensitive, and even funny where needed. Bergholm’s production also reminds me of horror movies from the late 20th century in a bizarre way, but at the same time it exudes a lot of freshness and ingenuity. Perhaps these impressions are caused by the use of practical special effects in the lion’s share? Or maybe it’s because I never watched a horror movie from Finland before? I don’t know, but I do know that Hatching fascinates, scares and allows you to think about what kind of parents we are to our children, until it’s too late for that.