Thursday 30 March 2023

On demand: "Hatching"

Another in the recent run of very odd, oddly memorable Finnish fables, Hatching is founded on a contrast between human nature and your actual nature, interiors and exteriors. It begins with an eerie anecdote: the perfectly ordered home of a lifestyle vlogger and her identikit family is thrown into violent disarray after a crow flies in from the outside world, shattering shelves of glassware before having its neck broken by the remorseless matriarch. Her pre-teen daughter Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a promising gymnast, takes in the bird's abandoned egg, stores it safely under her pillow with a hot water bottle, and then begins to notice cracks both literal and figurative: mum, for one, is having an affair with a neighbouring handyman, and hiding the scars on her heart from view in her eternally sunny videos. The egg, meanwhile, throbs and grows, eventually becoming bigger than its pint-sized protector herself. Somewhere in that relentless growth sits an acknowledgement on the part of writer Ilja Rautsi and director Hanna Bergholm that the world is neither as straightforward nor as perfectible as we might hope; that it is, in fact, almost always a little... well, off. You should see what comes out of the egg when its top pops open.

That's a surprise of some kind, so all I'll note here is that the movie's middle act plays like an ickier, stickier E.T., and that Henry Thomas had it easy: he never had to hide a creature raised to regurgitate half-digested food into his mouth in the middle of the night. (Worse follows when we learn exactly where said food came from.) Suffice to say teenage viewers are going to love Hatching, partly because it's full of gross stuff for them to flinch and giggle at, but mostly because it's about keeping secrets from squarely uncomprehending parents. Rautsi and Bergholm speak their language fluently: Tinja must wrestle with the ugly, smelly, noisy, generally unlovable creature within, while also managing the expectations placed on her, more elevated than ever in an age of social-media brandbuilding. Seasoned horror observers will spot the influences: there's something of Lynch in the uncanny family home and Angela Carter in the fairytale trappings, and this is also clearly the work of creatives who saw both The Exorcist and those Charles Band/Albert Pyun monster movies at an impressionable age. But they're mostly sublimated in an assured job of storytelling - and they're really not bad influences to fall under in the first place.

Hatching is available to stream via Prime Video, YouTube and the BFI Player, and on Blu-Ray via Picturehouse Entertainment.

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