Movie Review: Mothers and Daughters “Hatching” Horror

The harbinger couldn’t be clearer or more simple.

A crow crashes into a window of the “lovely everyday life of an ordinary Finnish family.” It gets in the house, wreaks havoc of vlogger/influencer/ever-smiling-mom’s designer glassware and chandelier. Teen daughter Tinja corrals it to free it outside. And smiling mom gently takes it from her and snaps its insurance-busting neck.

How do you say “Uh oh” in Finnish?

Here’s a horror tale of dysfunction and disorder visiting “lovely everyday life,” of parental pressure, gymnastics and of an egg — the wrong egg — brought home for “Hatching.”

Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is the locus of this tale, a child who learns much too much from her domineering, self-absorbed, image-conscious mother, played with a Stepford grin by Sophia Heikkilä.

Mom has her selfie stick always at the ready and her website up and running. Her family seems like mere cast members in this latest time-filling/ego-feeding passion. Tinja is more co-star than daughter.

“We had a really authentic moment there,”Mom coos (in Finnish with subtitles). “People LOVE them!”

Whatever demands her coach (Saija Lentonen) makes on Tinja, the mere hint that she won’t be quite ready to compete in an upcoming meet sends Mom into parallel-bars-until-your-palms-bleed overdrive. She’s counting on the “drama” that contest will provide, and hellbent on providing her viewers a happy ending.

Tinja is struggling to find her own moral footing in all this. When she finds another injured bird, screeching in the forest, it’s a mixture of pity and Mom’s heartlessness that drives her to kill it. She finds an egg, and feeling guilty at what she’s just done, takes it home to hatch.

The egg grows and grows, and when it hatches into an avian avatar for Tinje’s raging id, she mothers it and hides it from her neglected, lashing out little brother (Oiva Ollila), her checked-out and submissive Dad (Jani Volanen), the new neighbor girl (Ida Määttänen), a fellow gymnast of greater skill, and even Mom’s “special friend” (Reino Nordin), an artist and craftsman she makes little effort to hide from her family.

“Hatching,” titled “Pahanhautoja” in Finnish, is a sins-of-the-mother creature feature parable played out in blunt, gruesome strokes in director Hanna Bergholm’s film, based on a script by Ilja Rautsi. Mother acts out in ways good and bad, daughter tries to copy only the good, but her new “offspring,” the one she sings the same creepy “Alli” the “orphan child” lullaby to that was sung to her.

Whatever imprinting that song left on Tinja, we can only guess how it’ll play out with her resentful, unrestrained little brother. A whole future horror movie could spin around him.

The effects emphasize the “icky” aspects of raising a bird — think “regurgitation” — and the violence is mostly an off-camera source of fear and dread.

There’s a folk tale quality to all this in that no one reacts in a way a viewer could take to be “normal” considering the awful and extraordinary things that are revealed. An animal corpse dropped on a table by a child, motherly “coaching” that is plainly child abuse and a monstrous doppelganger for their sweet and passive teen merit barely so much as a double-take.

We have little doubt who the real monster is, but even she isn’t particularly frightening in a scary movie sense. The “gotchas” seem to lack the big editing/soundtrack/shock value kick that they merit.

But any horror movie that comments on something more than teenagers shouldn’t be left alone at an empty summer camp or with a baby sitter not up to Jamie Lee Curtis standards is worth embracing, even if we feel the need to consider what’s going on at arm’s length.

Rating: unrated, violence, mostly off-camera, profanity

Cast: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Oiva Ollila, Reino Nordin, Ida Määttänen and Saija Lentonen

Credits: Directed by Hanna Bergholm, scripted by Ilja Rautsi. An IFC Midnight release.

Running time: 1:26

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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