Hatching (Pahanhautoja) - Spoiler Free Movie Review
A picture about the perfect Finnish family that turns into a dark & freaky fairy tale. Not everything is as it seems, sometimes the monsters are within us.
Original Title: Pahanhautoja
Genre: Drama / Horror
Director: Hanna Bergholm
Cast: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin, Oia Ollila, Ida Määttänen & Saija Lentonen.
Run Time: 86 min.
Finnish Release: 04 March 2022
US Release: 29 April 2022 (limited)
German Release: 28 July 2022
Hatching has been one of the movies I had high on my anticipated list for this year, after having seen the first trailers. A modern Finnish horror folklore tale that promised scary suspense, I was counting the days until it finally reached German theatres and it was absolutely worth it! Hannah Bergholm’s feature debut is a small, contained body-horror that might stumble, even fall at times, but generally is well crafted, making it a solid foreign independent flick worth spending money and time at the cinema!
12-year-old Tinja, a young gymnast who is desperately trying to please the high demands of her pressuring mother, discovers a strange egg. She hides it, keeping it warm and caring for it, but what hatches from it shocks everybody!
Ilja Rautsi’s screenplay is first and foremost a creature feature, containing a lot of folkloric tropes all enveloped in today's modern world. The narrative is pretty straightforward, containing no real twists or revelations. It is a “what you see, is what you get” scenario, handled with a lot of care and skill. Bergholm managed to build up a positive, creepy atmosphere around the mystery of the egg, sprinkled with intense, unpleasant moments when it comes to the family. The tension is wound up throughout the film’s runtime, until it finally snaps in the last 10 minutes, coming to a short showdown.
The story encapsulates a lot of coming-of-age metaphors, primarily the bodily plus psychological changes that happen from childhood to womanhood. The subject of motherhood is also on the front line, explaining how mirroring aspects of parental personalities can be imprinted on our offspring. More “on-the-nose” messages included, are about the world of vlogging; especially fake perfect lives and how those facades can have harmful effects on us or our surroundings. It also criticises the detachment of the paternal side, avoiding unpleasant responsibilities.
The manner in which these combinations of different issues are presented on screen is what makes hatching so original. However, the thematics discussed are more on the surface level, never fully explored, which makes the picture feel a little superficial. The ending, how the story is wrapped up, enforces that sentiment as it comes off as anticlimactic and abrupt. The dialogue scenes are very well written, even if a little vague at times. They add a level of mystery, with every word spoken leaving a presence of threat plus tension.
Siiri Solalinna plays Tinja, the twelve-year-old daughter and lead of the movie. Most of the metaphors from the plot are focused around her, as she is reaching the age of puberty, starting to see through the veil of family lies. The entire picture is resting on Solalinna’s shoulders and she did a fantastic job at portraying her character!
Sophia Heikkilä as Tinja’s mother also gave a grand performance as a broken human being, who felt like the chance at a perfect life was taken from her, through marriage and pregnancy. The lack of empathy she radiates toward her children is chilling while trying to play the role of a picture-perfect woman to the outside world. The demands plus pressure she puts on Tinja are heartbreaking, as she tries to live out her dreams through her daughter.
Jani Volanen, who was hast as Tinja’s father was pushed more to the background, yet done on purpose, as he is also a troubled man that tries to evade his family duties. Rounding off the family is Oiva Ollila as Matias, Tinja’s younger, as well as extremely jealous brother. He obtains barely any love from both parents, especially from the mother, who sees him more as a nuisance.
Cinematographically, this is one of the best-looking European films I have seen in a long time! The camera always makes jumps from dramatic family life, ice-cold thrilling tension and bloody horror scenes, blending them into a fluent eighty-six-minute long picture. The colour palette is predominantly white, creating a clinically clean atmosphere, however the further the film progresses, the more reddish/brown colours come into the foreground, as the facade of a perfect family starts to crumble.
The effects are mostly composed of puppeteer work and animatronics, which look realistic. CGI was also used but to minimal effect, blending in well with the practical effects. Make-up and masks were designed by Academy Award-nominated effects artist Conor O’Sullivan, who did an amazing job at showing the creature through its transformative state.
Verdict: Hanna Bergholm’s debut feature film, is a great little body-horror tale, with interesting metaphors and a shocking family dynamic that leaves a feeling of goosebumps. Though not all subjects are thoroughly explored or too on-the-nose, it still leaves an impactful impression that lingers in one's mind, long after having seen it on screen. The dialogues are well written, adding to the suspense and the characters while promoting themselves as cardboard cutouts of a perfect family online, are more disturbing and interesting behind closed doors. Siiri Soalinna did a good enough job for a child actress, especially giving her double role in the narrative. The cinematography is marvellous, while the blend of animatronics and CGI is gorgeous to look at! Hatching is a short, interesting, bitter-sweet Finnish flick, fully deserving of a 7.5 out of 10.
If you haven’t seen Hatching yet I do recommend you go see it or buy it on an online platform. It is a bitter-sweet modern horror folk tale worth watching!