8 Jun 2022

At The Movies - Hatching

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 8 June 2022

Hatching is a bizarre and disturbing tale from Finland about a teenage girl, bullied by her mother, who cares for an egg that eventually hatches something unexpected.

Simon Morris: Scandinavia is rather keen on horror at the moment. In the Finnish film Hatching, where a young girl becomes the adoptive parent of a monstrous bird.

I know I've given some Scandinavian horror films a pretty good ride recently - The Innocents, certainly, and that unique combination of shock and heartbreak in Let the Right One In. But I can't say I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the horror genre.

Sometimes they're too efficient - a week's nightmares guaranteed at the end of them - sometimes they're just too stupid. Either way, not my sort of fun.

Hatching from Finland seems to fall between the two. It's certainly unique, opening on a too-good-to-be-true Finnish family, stars of their own video blog, driven by Mum.

The relentlessly upbeat mum calls her reality show "Lovely Everyday Life" and everyone in the family has to join in - brow-beaten Dad, resentful 10-year old Matias and his older sister Tinja.

Tinja is clearly being groomed to be Mum's surrogate, and is bullied into a gymnastic career, like it or not.

But one day, just as they're filming another episode of "Lovely Everyday Life" they're interrupted by an invading bird. It flits around the lounge, breaking things, until Mum captures it, kills it and chucks it onto the organic rubbish.

No sooner have you said "Ugh!" to that, when things start to go a bit Scandinavian.

Tinja wanders outside that night - is she dreaming or is this real? - and discovers the bird has laid a small egg outside. She takes it inside and stuffs it under a giant teddy bear.

Every night she looks at it, and each time it seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger. But now Tinja is invested in it, and whispers "I'll take care of you".

Hatching seems to want to compare Tinja's gentle egg-care with her awful mother's relentless bullying. Mum is determined her daughter will win the upcoming gymnastics competition, no matter how hard Tinja has to work for it.

Meanwhile, the egg is now almost as big as Tinja - it's got to be a dream, surely! Until one day it hatches. Of course, it does. I mean, this film isn't called 'Just Dreaming', is it?

And it's about now that Hatching starts to get a bit weird.

Yes, all right, they were pretty weird before. But I was side-tracked by how different Finland seems from how I imagined it.

It's sunny and prosperous and blonde and upbeat. Until things go wrong of course. For instance, don't get on Mum's bad side.

But I digress. You're probably more interested in what Hatching's been hatching.

I won't describe her - partly so as not to spoil the surprise, and partly because, honestly, I can hardly bear to think of her.

The newcomer is named Alli, by the way, and Tinja has to spend most of the movie hiding her from the family.

Despite her somewhat daunting appearance - certainly nothing to do with "Lovely Everyday Life" - Alli is devoted to Tinja. Rather too devoted.

It's just a matter of time before the monstrous Alli goes to extremes to protect her foster mother.

And now Alli starts changing, becoming less and less birdlike and more and more human. And every step of the way, Hatching resolutely refused to carry me with it.

After about an hour, I was watching it through barely-parted fingers, as I wondered what the horrible Alli might do next.

In fairness to both horror fans and the horror-phobic, I should say that overt gore and mayhem are kept to a minimum.

Hatching prefers the psychological approach, meaning deeply disturbing and creepy.

And while I concede it's not stupid, it may even have something to say about bad parenting, it's still never going to be my idea of a nice night out.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to At The Movies

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)