Some horror movies get the job done on a visceral level, and that’s more or less it.
We didn’t learn anything new about the human condition from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” We experienced its iconic shocks, and that was enough.
“Hatching” has bigger ambitions.
The Finnish thriller skewers shallow parenting in between genre thrills. It’s slick, and oh, so satisfying, and yet the screenplay has little left to say by the third act.
A Finnish woman wants to be king of the mommy vloggers, and she’s got the picture-perfect brood to pull it off. Young Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) brings grace and grit to her gymnastic routines, and Matias (Oiva Ollila) can’t stop worshipping his Mom – on camera and off.
Add an emasculated Pa (Jani Volanen) who ignores his wife’s infidelities, and you have a family made for YouTube glory.
We can spot this clan’s moral rot early on, and that gets worse after Tinja finds a bird’s egg she attempts to hatch. The shell grows, and grows, and before long a creature the size of Tinja is toddling around the house.
Girl and bird bond, while the dysfunctional world around them grows more toxic, more eager for disruption.
Director Hanna Bergholm (“Puppet Master”) takes a surreal premise and grafts on a story sure to snare audiences of all stripes. She’s captured egocentric parents in their natural habitat, and it’s the film’s most horrific element.
It’s not even close.
Momma constantly pressures poor Tinja to work harder at gymnastics and never stop practicing, even when her hands are bloody and raw. Papa would rather noodle on his guitar than connect with his kids. And Matias is just plain creepy, full stop.
Who needs a mysterious creature with this lot in front of the camera?
Young Solalinna has the toughest task here, making her tortured character worth our emotional investment. She’s hard to embrace at times, her own moral compass far from complete. She’s also on the cusp of womanhood, something the screenplay acknowledges without direct commentary.
“Hatching” is at its best when holding its messages back.
Pandemic theater exhibition continues to feel like the upside down. I just found out my local AMC is getting Hatching from IFC Midnight, a company which for years has reliably premiered same day on digital but now is going theatrical only for most titles (see also: Watcher). pic.twitter.com/up7wKmwjn7
— Peter Marra (@thepetermarra) April 21, 2022
The story grows tighter when the mother’s lover (Reino Nordin) enters the frame. Who could fall for such an ugly soul, no matter how prim her packaging might be? Nordin’s performance, one-dimensional at first, matures with modest screen time.
The finale delivers what we’ve been waiting for, more or less, but by this point the story’s satirical guns have long since fired. What’s left? A fiendishly original tale that wraps conventionally.
We’ve seen far worse from the horror genre, but a killer resolution could have catapulted “Hatching” into the modern classic camp.
HiT or Miss: “Hatching” delivers what horror fans crave, from disturbing reveals to a sly, satirical script. The third act still feels like something substantial went missing.