31 Days of Hallowe’en 2022, Day 1: Hatching [2022]

Another year, another 31 Days of Halloween. My 9th! And I still never know how to start these engagingly enough. Which is fine; I’ll let the films speak for themselves.

This year kicked off with Finnish fable Hatching [Pahanhautoja], directed by Hanna Bergholm and written by Ilja Rautsi. Siiri Solalinna stars as Tinja, a 12-year-old whose entire life revolves around gymnastics, which she seems to enjoy but is definitely pushed by her mother (Sophia Heikkilรค), whose self-importance is so inflated that she literally makes a living from documenting her everyday experiences with her typical, perfect, Finnish family. Rounding up the family is her pleasantly distant father (Jani Volanen) and mildly irritating brother Matias (Oiva Ollila), who appears, interestingly, like he’s a clone of his father sometimes due to his matching clothing and spectacles.

After an opening sequence in which a crow is dispatched from the house (but not after accidentally fucking up everything in that picture-perfect living room), Tinja finds an small egg in the woods beside that same crow, which had flown back in its injured state. Tinja puts the poor bird out of the misery her own mother had already caused it, then hides the egg under a pillow on her bed – but it’s not long before it starts to hatch…

I’m not giving fuck-all away for this. I didn’t even see a trailer, so I didn’t know what was going to hatch out of the egg, and I’m telling you that you should see this exactly the same way. Hopefully the trailer doesn’t give it away anyway, but it makes this beautifully bizarre viewing experience that much richer if you give the story a chance to unfold by itself.

But it’s not just the storytelling that gives this film its quietly eerie atmosphere; right from the start, Bergholm’s direction and Jarkko T. Laine’s photography serve up a duality of orderly but uneasy beauty, from the symmetrical pines of the village setting to the showroom sheen of the family’s carefully curated home. Inside, garish floral wallpapers, shell chairs and metal-accented furniture make you feel like you, too, are trapped in a birdcage. As for the SFX, the increasingly grotesque body horror pairs perfectly with a coming-of-age tale in which blood from a corpse is mistaken for the onset of first menstruation; or how, in a hobby-turned-hyperfixation for which you give up your literal body, there is a sense that your body is not your own, because someone else is expecting something of it, to look a certain way, to perform a certain way; and, finally, from a motherhood perspective, can one ever be ready to face the monster that they themselves have created?

More thought-provoking and darker than I’d expected, Hatching has an array of moody, bittersweet charms under its fairytale-like shell.

Score: ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ


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