A terrible tale of body dysmorphy

A struggling pre-teen gymnast with an overbearing mother discovers a strange egg with deadly consequences. Hatching is a Finnish horror film that deals with several difficult themes. Its primary focus is body dysmorphy. The protagonist starves and brutalizes himself to live up to harsh expectations. Hatching also acts as an outrageous creature-trait. The egg unleashes an eerie monster to be fed and acts viciously on the emotional state of its young caretaker. Hatching is thoughtful, disturbing, and frankly nauseating; despite a predictable finish with minor flaws.

In an idyllic Finnish suburb, mother (Sophia Heikkilä) has a popular lifestyle blog about her perfect family. She admits her twelve-year-old daughter, Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), who is rehearsing for a gymnastics competition. Father (Jani Volanen) and their young son, Matias (Oiva Ollila), look forward to happy admiration. The scene changes when the camera stops scrolling. Mom bitterly scolds Tinja for her mistake. Matias is a disgusting lad. Suddenly a raven crashes in through the window. It causes chaos until it is cruelly dispatched.

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Tinja hears strange noises in the woods behind their house. She is amazed to find the bird near death and ends its suffering. Then she notices a small egg. A guilty Tinja takes it back to his room and warms it under his teddy bear. Tinja is disgusted after repeatedly falling in training. Even worse is that her new neighbor, Reetta (Ida Määttänen), can take her place in the competition. She returns home to find mother and handyman (Reino Nordin) in a compromising state. Tinja cradles her egg, which has become much larger as she cries bitterly. The skull begins to crack.

From Tinja’s point of view

Siiri Solalinna carries the film as Tinja and has a different role as the film progresses. We see everything from her point of view and she loves mom and will do anything to please her. Mom never physically abuses Tinja, but her words cut like a knife. Tinja hates herself for not being talented. Hatching gets even more twisted as Tinja has to feed the monster. It will only eat what she breeds, which intensifies her anorexia and bulimia, all the while she is already painfully thin and bony. These scenes are especially disturbing.

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The animatronics and the practical effects fit perfectly into the narrative. The monster is ugly and quite scary and changes dramatically throughout the story. My skin crawled every time Tinja interacted with it. Finnish director Hanna Bergholm excels in her feature film debut and never smartly goes overboard. The film has plenty of blood, guts and gore in context. The creature does not attack arbitrarily or go on the killing spree, it rather seeks everything that causes Tinja distress. This narrow focus causes considerable unrest as Tinja becomes overwhelmed with guilt and fear.

A point of predictability

Hatching has a point of predictability. I looked in hopes of a better solution and was left a bit disappointed. The film takes an easy path out of a terrible dilemma. Dad is also credible as a willing rooster, but his lack of action in the third act is too passive. No parents would watch if their children were threatened.

Hatching leaves a restless feeling. The horror genre themes are solid, but Tinja’s inability to cope with her young life is depressingly realistic. Mother is a known tyrant. She represents the modern cultural embrace of selfishness and narcissism that forces her child to fulfill her failed dreams. Hatching clearly illustrates the unnecessary burdens imposed on children.

Hatching, originally called Pahanhautoja, has Finnish dialogue with English subtitles. The film is a production of Silva Mysterium Oy. It gets a limited theatrical release on April 29 from IFC Midnight.


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