Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review: Hatching ★★★★

Finnish horror Hatching from director Hanna Bergholm and writer Ilja Rautsi presents a glimpse at the grotesque consequences of repression amidst the faux veneer of suburban perfection in truly gripping genre fashion. Focus on outward appearances, neglecting the inner-self, Hatching utilises striking cinematography, tense direction, impressive creature feature effects, and sterling performances from its cast.

Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is a young girl living in luxurious suburbia with her influencer mother (Sophia Heikkilä), her kind but ineffective father (Jani Volanen) and her shrill younger brother. Tinja desperately tries to please her image-obsessed mother focussing her attention on her gymnastics training – however after finding a wounded bird’s egg in the forest she takes this home, soon dominating her time. After nurturing the egg to hugely oversized proportions, it hatches to reveal a nightmarish creature which becomes Tinja’s hidden dark secret – growing increasingly dangerous and destructive.

Cinematographer Jarkko T. Laine transports us to the brightly lit grandeur of Finnish suburbia packed with luxurious home decor, lush bright visuals, and immaculately dressed characters. This allegedly perfect family home and its inhabitants, the subject of Tinja’s mother’s blog “Lovely Everyday Life”. This faux reality is gradually peeled away throughout Rautsi’s sharp satirical narrative capturing the futility of striving for perfection – with Tinja’s apparently immaculate life repressing numerous darkened issues and insuppressible cracks. These cracks are brought to the surface when a crow flies into Tinja’s living room triggering a wave of destruction from tumbling crystal vases to the clattering of a sparkling chandelier. The emergence of these genre-friendly scenes give an indication of Bergholm’s sharp ability for a tense moment of horror – highlighted by the breaking of the crow’s neck by Tinja’s slightly less composed mother. Hatching retains a dark satirical humour with Tinja’s mother requesting her daughter place the bird in the trash – but to make sure its the biodegradable bin.

Like the brutal treatment of the crow suggests, Tinja’s mother makes for a fascinatingly unpleasant character – played with a wickedly entertaining faux charm by the elegant Sophia Heikkilä. The actress commands the screen and is a macabre joy to watch as she gradually drip feed’s moments of unpleasantness slipping through the shimmering façade. Attempting to craft a more nurturing maternal style of her own Tinja begins to bond with the creature, despite it growing increasingly aggressive and violent as it transforms from its skin-covered, bony avian state to a near doppelganger of Tinja. SFX guru Conor O’Sullivan crafts the creature in a horrifying manner – highlighting its grotesque fusion of bird-like and human features and serving as a physical manifestation of the stress and repression faced by Tinja through her mother.

Tonally Hatching flits between nightmarish horror, near suburban soap opera, and emotionally complex drama – fusing these attributes to create a multifaceted experience that both touches, amuses and horrifies. Provoking discussion about the importance of maternal relationships and the futile desire for perfection, Hatching provides enough grit to satisfy horror fans yet plentiful food for thought in Tinja’s well-crafted relationship with the creature whom she dubs Alli.

Subplots including the havoc caused by the creature in the neighbourhood and Tinja’s mother’s affair with handsome handyman Tero (played by with charisma by Finnish pop heartthrob Reino Nordin) help Hatching effectively veer down numerous routes to keep us invested in both the horror and family drama. Ambitious turns made in the final moments provide a tense, satisfying finale that matches the meticulous precision and originality of the film’s prior moments.

Hatching is an out and out treat. Thematically rich, aesthetically vivid and beautifully nightmarish, Hanna Bergholm crafts an ambitious and massively satisfying horror spectacle.

Hatching plays as part of the Sundance Film Festival 2022. Details can be found here.