Home Horror Entertainment News Sundance 2022: ‘Hatching’ Shines with Dark Humor, Brilliant Practical Effects

Sundance 2022: ‘Hatching’ Shines with Dark Humor, Brilliant Practical Effects

by Waylon Jordan

Hatching made its eerie debut at Midnight Mountain Time last night at Sundance Film Festival and caught its audience completely off guard.

The dark Finnish fairy tale written by Ilja Rautsi and directed by Hanna Bergholm focuses on a girl named Tinja (Siiri Solalinna). At the ripe young age of 12, she’s constantly bullied into perfection by her overbearing, blogger Mother (Sophia Heikkilä) who insists that the girl be a winner in all things not because she thinks Tinja deserves the best, but because it will make herself look better as a parent.

After a bird smashes into their window, Tinja rescues its egg from the forest. That’s where the real trouble begins. As the egg grows in size, it absorbs her emotions, the new life inside it becoming something more terrifying than the girl could ever imagine. When it hatches, she finds herself inextricably linked to the creature and it will do anything to protect her.

What I loved first and foremost about Hatching was its script. Rautsi walks a precarious line between drama, dark comedy, and horror with the ease of a trained gymnast. We’re immediately drawn into this admittedly strange family, each assigned an archetype as old as storytelling itself.

The young, beautiful sympathetic daughter, the overbearing mother obsessed with appearances, the downtrodden lonely father, and the attention-seeking (and starved) younger brother converge exactly as they should to play out the pantomime of family. There’s no sense of involvement with each other except where Mother and her wishes are concerned. Every moment of their lives is staged, photographed, and recorded for public consumption.

Siiri Solalinna appears in Hatching. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IFC Midnight.

It’s Bergholm’s direction that takes the script to the next level.

Sophia Heikkilä’s performance elicits a certain level of empathy for the Mother character. She obviously feels trapped in her life, as if something is missing, and she’s exerting the only controls she knows how to fill a void she can’t fully define.

Solalinna’s Tinja, meanwhile, is utterly captivating. When her new friend begins acting out, she almost accepts its behavior as something entirely natural, and moreover, becomes a mother for Alli, as she soon names it, in her own way. Lacking a good example of what that means, she naturally makes mistakes, but she tries so hard that you can’t help but root for her.

Then there’s the creature itself.

Bergholm employed a crew of puppeteers to bring the bird/human hybrid to life beautifully as it first enters the world. Its mannerisms and utter innocence where its sinister deeds are concerned are profoundly effective. It is “real” and its weight in its environment effects everything and everyone it touches. One must mention the sound design here, as well. Alli’s voice ranges from a songbird-like cooing to nails-on-the-chalkboard level screeching that will chill you to the bone.

Ambiguous endings seem to be the order of the horror at Sundance this year. Hatching is no exception, but here it seems ultimately fitting. Most fairy tales today end with a happily ever after. Older, darker fairy tales and legends, however, were much less tidy. Hatching intentionally leaves its audience with a question mark, and I urge anyone who watches to pay close attention to Mother’s face as the tale comes to a close. The actor gives us so much in that moment and it should be savored.

The film is a journey and you’ll find yourself at many different signposts along the way. From uncomfortable chuckles to intense body horror, it’s amazing how much they packed into one of the shortest feature run times of the festival at only 86 minutes.

Hatching is set to open in movie theaters and to drop on VOD in April, 2022. Check out the trailer below!