Director: Hanna Bergholm
Writer: Ilja Rautsi
Stars: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen
The opening act of the Finnish horror film Hatching 2022 may bring back traumatic memories for Black Mirror fans. The shocking episode Nosedive stamps an aesthetic of pink and pastel perfection on viewers’ brains as the face of Instagram influencer respectability. A young gymnast desperately trying to please her demanding mother discovers a strange egg. She hides it and keeps it warm, but when she hatches, what emerges shocks them all.
The horror genre has proven itself time and time again to be a potent vessel through which to sift through family anxieties, but far from the halls of more subdued art horror – don’t call it “elevated” – we’ve got the unapologetically swanky styles of Finn . the directorial debut of filmmaker Hanna Bergholm Hatching.
Tinja is a lonely young gymnast who has to deal with her mother’s obnoxious commitment to chronicle the family’s “idyllic” daily life for her popular blog, and the lack of attention from her passive father.
However, everything changes when Tinja discovers an injured bird in the nearby forest and, after mercifully killing it with a stone, she sees a single egg in the bird’s nest. Tinja takes the egg home and surreptitiously nurtures it, before one of her tears splashes onto the eggshell and seemingly initiates a strange transformation. The resulting born creature, Alli, becomes the object of Tinja’s own maternal instincts, the implications of which quickly go horribly awry.
This is a film that is both funny and grotesque, splitting the difference between a bodily fluid-splattered horror game and a provocative satire on family rituals and motherhood. From her earliest moments, Tinja’s home life seems to be a gut-wrenching suburban nightmare, her and her asshole brother basically being raised as little facsimiles of her parents to show off on social media.
The opening act of the Finnish horror film Hatching may bring back traumatic memories for Black Mirror fans. The shocking episode Nosedive stamps an aesthetic of pink and pastel perfection on viewers’ brains as the face of Instagram influencer respectability. Then a sense of dread builds around that kind of artificiality and mistrust of the hidden work and equally hidden motives involved in its creation. Hatching begins in a similar place, with a blissfully perfect family of four curating their lives around carefully composed and strategically framed social media posts. But the movie goes much darker than Black Mirror, goes much faster, and comes to much bloodier endings.
Hatching 2022 is yet another vicious satire of online culture in an era that is finding more and more traction with them. The 1980s were filled with horror films built around Norman Rockwell’s wholesome image of suburban life, and the seedy underbelly he sometimes disguises. But that brand of horror has mostly morphed into movies like Cam, Spree and The Hater, which warn about what lies beneath the surface of a social media identity and what happens when people use the internet to chase approval of others. All coast. Hatching couches that familiar admonition in a metaphor so simple and obvious it almost seems ridiculous. But the extremeness of what director Hanna Bergholm puts on screen strongly counteracts any sense that the message is too simplistic.
Twelve-year-old Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) appears to have been raised as an accessory to her mother’s video blog, Lovely Everyday Life. Tinja, her younger brother Matias (Oiva Ollila), and her parents, credited only as Mother (Sophia Heikkilä) and Father (Jani Volanen), time her every move around their online audience. The mother frequently posts videos about her perfect family and her perfect home, and she has enlisted the entire family to maintain the exact illusion she wants to project.
Ilja Rautsi’s script strips that idea down to its bare essentials by never addressing who the mother audience is or what she wants from them. She could also be performing for a wide and profitable audience, trying to gain a following in an influential sphere that barely notices her, or simply obsessing over her own fantasy of an ideal life. Bergholm keeps the blog off screen, and her readership and her response are left to the imagination of the audience. The abstraction is part of the horror of the film and part of the vision of it: the followers rule the mother’s life and, through her, rule Tinja. But they are a faceless and formless entity to Tinja, so they are also invisible to the audience.
Tinja adores her mother and would do anything to please her, but shortly after an unsettling event allows her to see her mother’s cruelty, Tinja brings home an egg from the forest and hides it in her room.