NOW ON HULU! Director Hanna Bergholm and writer Ilja Rautsi’s Hatching plays out like an upside-down version of Inside Out. But the horror feature takes quite a different tact in delving into the tween psyche. Instead of a cadre of colorful characters, the mind is personified by a hideous, human-sized bird that mutates and mutilates in this dark adolescent metaphor.
We are first introduced to Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a sweet 12-year-old living a charmed life of luxury that’s lovingly manicured to garish perfection. She shares her home with her comfortably clueless father (Jani Volanen) and her ornery younger brother (Reino Nordin). We soon learn that their squeaky-clean existence results from her mother (Sophia Heikkilä), a vlogger obsessed with presenting their family as living the “perfect life.”
This scrubbed-up social media presence is momentarily popped when a bird breaks into the house, madly fluttering into furniture until Mom ultimately captures it. When young Tinja suggests releasing it back into the wild, Mom quickly snaps its neck and asks her daughter to dispose of it outside, all without breaking her plastered-on internet-friendly smile. When Tinja later discovers the bird somehow escapes its trash-bin burial, she ventures into the woods and finds it barely alive and tries to put it out of its misery. However, she soon discovers that it was protecting its egg that Tinja takes home, promising to protect it.
“…Tinja realizes that this is no ordinary egg, as it quickly grows to the size of a sofa cushion…”
The majority of Hatching plays out as Tinja realizes that this is no ordinary egg, as it quickly grows to the size of a sofa cushion under her care. Once hatched, the creature resembles a velociraptor that escaped straight off the set of Jurassic Park. Soon after, strange occurrences start taking place: a neighbor’s dog goes missing, Tinja’s clothes are shredded, and her adopted avian friend becomes more human each day. During this time, the teen learns of her mother’s affair with a local handyman. At one point, Mother even brings her daughter along while carrying out her extramarital affair.
Bergholm uses the fable as a critique of societal expectations placed on females at an early age by making Tinja a competitive gymnast struggling to make the cut. At under 90 minutes, Hatching still feels a bit long in its metaphor for maturity. Rautsi pares things to a minimum, which we understand fairly early on, though the subsequent chaos doesn’t really add layers to the intended commentary.
Still, much credit goes to newcomer Siiri Solalinna for her dual roles of Tinja and her formerly feathered doppelganger. She’s both vulnerable and commanding, which must have been as demanding physically as it was emotionally. Additionally, the special effects team crafts a delightfully deranged blend of visual effects and puppeteering that brings life to the nightmarish creation at the core of the film.
Hatching is the very essence of a midnight movie and one that will undoubtedly find a sizeable cult following. Sure, its metaphor isn’t as deep as it thinks it is, but this is certainly a solid start for director Bergolm and lead Solalinna. I look forward to seeing them spread their wings on future projects.
Hatching screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and the 2022 SFFilm Festival.
"…the very essence of a midnight movie..."