The gloriously entertaining horror flick Hatching will provide you a nice egg in this trying time: Sundance Film Festival Review

Hatching tells the story of Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a 12-year old rising star gymnast who lives in the supposed perfect existence of domesticated suburbia; led by her image-perfectionist mother (Sophia Heikkilä), who runs a popular blog about exactly that. Tinja’s family also consists of her taciturn father (Jani Volanen) and her spoiled, irritable younger brother (Oiva Ollila).

The socially-awkward Tinja spends all of her days striving for perfection in gymnastics, catering to her mother’s image-conscious errands and covering up her indiscretions — including sleeping with the repairman Tero, played by Reino Nordin — while tolerating her brother’s antics.

One night while strolling through the woods, she finds a fatally wounded bird next to a nest with an egg inside. She brings the egg home, nestles it in her bed and cares for it until it hatches; all in secrecy of the family. But things go terribly wrong when the bird becomes enormous in size and takes Tinja as her mother; resulting in a terrible nightmare for all involved.

As the expression goes, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”. And in the case of Hatching, the film is one damn tasty omelette. Hatching is the feature-length film debut from Finnish director Hanna Bergholm; whose short film Puppet Master made waves in festivals due to a compelling mix of experimental horror and low-fi special effects. For her latest project, Bergholm lends her skills on a bigger plate and she shows she has what it takes to be a great filmmaker.

In a taut 91-minute runtime, Bergholm manages to pack in pitch-black macabre comedy, heartfelt coming-of-age revelations, gruesome body horror and ideas about motherhood seamlessly and confidently. As soon as the film starts, Bergholm has already satirized the idea of the perfect family and domestic suburbia by poking fun of social media as well as adopting an overly bright, ethereal vision. But as with any picture-perfect vision, underneath the suburban lawn lies great horror.

Most of the pitch-black comedy comes from satire of domestic suburbia, the amazingly bonkers premise and the gnarly violence — which has all the blood, entrails and triggering kills one should expect(?) from horror. It is all delivered through the passive-aggressiveness or oblivious nature of the characters and it comes through the straight-faced performances from the cast. Heikkilä is amazing as the narcissistic mother who refuses to accept anything less than stellar for herself or her daughter. Her deadpan expressions over the slightest flaws or imperfections from her family are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Volanen is an amusing drip in the role of Tinja’s father who looks like he can barely stand up; much less do something assertive while Ollila is believable as a rambunctious kid who is not afraid to let his emotions loose.

It is that deadpan forcefulness that provides a compelling contrast to the work from Solalinna as Tinja. Without going into spoilers, her seething emotions provide a gradual parallel to her composure as the latter begins to manifest throughout the film. Provided with many opportunities to let loose, Solalinna tackles all the facets of her character like a true consummate professional. We believe when she is in pain in both physical and mental terms, we believe the bond she establishes with the bird creature (which is fantastically well-realized mostly via practical effects) and we believe her anger and loathing towards the people in her inner circle and most especially herself; and Solalinna does a brilliant job.

Throw in a satisfyingly confounding ending that delivers a message about loving what is in front of you and not what you choose to see and you have a winner of a film. Hatching is a fantastic film from Bergholm that does what great horror films do – provide a twisted narrative that is symbolic of ideas grounded in the human condition through a striking directorial vision of fear. Highly recommended.

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FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Hatching is screening as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is being presented virtually between January 20th and 30th, 2022.  For more information head to the official Sundance page.

Harris Dang

Rotten Tomatoes-approved Film Critic. Also known as that handsome Asian guy you see in the cinema with a mask on.

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