Review: Social media and a mommy-blogger mother from hell are the true horrors in ‘Hatching’

A young girl, a giant egg and a large teddy bear with its stuffing ripped out on a bed in the movie “Hatching.”
Siiri Solalinna in the movie “Hatching.”
(Andrejs Strokins/IFC Midnight)

In the fantastical Finnish horror fairytale “Hatching,” the directorial debut of Hanna Bergholm, a young girl hatches a murderous bird monster out of an egg she secretly nests in her bed, and that’s not even the scariest part — her perfectionist mommy-blogger mother strikes the truest terror in the film. Like many great monster movies, “Hatching” uses its creature as a metaphor for repressed emotion, and the one at the center of this film is one of the most uniquely grotesque creations seen on screen in a long time.

The bird monster is the work of Gustav Hoegen, a renowned animatronics designer with credits on several “Star Wars” films and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” The spindly, large-eyed, goo-covered creature looks and feels like a throwback to the kind of otherworldly monsters from the best ‘70s and ‘80s fantasy films, such as “E.T.” or Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth,” and shares a similar tender yet treacherous relationship with a young protagonist.

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Our heroine Tinja (Siiri Solalinna, in her film debut) finds the mysterious egg after a traumatic incident in which a raven crashes into her family’s picture perfect house, wreaking havoc. Tinja’s mother (Sophia Heikkilä) kills the bird without batting an eye and instructs her daughter to dispose of it in the trash. But that night, the screams of the reanimated animal summon the girl outside. She finishes the job, beating it to a pulp, and assuages her guilt by taking home the large, speckled egg she discovers nearby.


She nests the egg in her bed, a secret that cannot be mined for content for her mother’s blog, “Lovely Everyday Life.” It’s something that cannot be nitpicked or criticized, like her gymnastics practice, where her mother acts as a stage mom, pushing her daughter to perfection. When the egg grows huge and hatches and a giant, black, bird humanoid emerges, Tinja’s maternal instincts kick in. She names her new friend Alli, after a lullaby her mother sings. Alli, in turn, seeks to protect and care for Tinja the only way she knows how: by attacking those she sees as Tinja’s enemies.

The script, by Ilja Rautsi is a classic monster movie, using the violent humanoid bird creature as an external representation of Tinja’s repressed emotions. As Tinja cares for Alli, feeding her, protecting her, the two become true doubles, more physically alike and psychically linked. The way Alli absorbs Tinja’s anxieties reflects the way the girl’s mother has raised her, reinforcing her own toxic perfectionism on her child.

The monster metaphor is plainly laid out in “Hatching,” but crucially, the film resists over-explaining, allowing details to remain mysterious and the viewer to speculate and imagine rather than be spoon-fed explicit answers.

“Hatching” hinges on the performance from young Solalinna, who is a wonder, and the creature effects of the bird monster puppet. Hoegen’s work is remarkable, with Alli both monstrous and strangely human.

Bergholm crafts a richly designed film, integrating the visual style into the storytelling. Tinja’s family home, optimized for social media content, designed in white, gold, pink, and aggressive floral wallpaper, becomes a surreal and scary space. The costume design connects the family in gendered pairings but also differentiates Tinja from her peers, clad in girlish white eyelet dresses while the other girls wear jeans. Mother’s signature frilly pink frocks and gold heels are the picture of manicured femininity, but all of these adornments are mere cover for the darkness within them all.

“Hatching” imagines and externalizes what that internal darkness might look like, might act like, and offers a contemporary cautionary tale about social-media-style aesthetics and performance, as well as the psychology of parenting, in this imaginative modern-day fable.


Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.


In Finnish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes

Playing: Starts April 29 in general release