When a pageant mom (Sophia Heikkilä) breaks a bird’s neck, what’s inside the egg it leaves behind comes as a surprise to her kinder.

A frightening fable from Finland, Hatching insantly shatters its picture of domestic bliss and grabs you with its The Birds-meets-The Fly hook. From this sardonic setup hatches an Xtro-type tale of alien adolescence and insidious child abuse.

The woman referred to only as “Mother” is emotionally abusive to her gymnast daughter Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a The Brood-style cycle that continues when Tinja adopts the horrifying bird that emerges from the egg and then starts to resemble her. It grows from the animal embodiment of her subconscious rage to something more nurturing, digging its talons into the horror of abusive relationships. 

Tinja soon understands what her own mother does not: you can create a child in your own image, but you cannot make it the same as you. Of the three generations only one character is rotten, and it is not the one that hatched from an egg. When Mother says of the creature, “It looks like Tinja but it isn’t Tinja, everything is its fault!” she is surely describing herself.

Heikkilä is suitably crackers as the Kellyanne Conway-looking matriarch, and her family perfectly cast as though by Mother herself; a designer clan to match her pristine house, proudly displayed in her “Lovely Everyday Life” vlog.

Director Hanna Bergholm renders the themes aesthetically, as Mother’s picture-perfect pastels are disrupted by the nightmarish creature effects that make The Dark Crystal‘s Skeksis look like Big Bird. Her debut feature marries the shiny-surfaced matricide of Goodnight Mommy to the feminist body horror of Julia Ducournau; the nuclear family invaded by something dark and other. 

Though it lacks the searing singularity and genre gymnastics of Titane, Hatching is a sharp-clawed horror flick; psychologically interesting and viscerally striking, with none of the A24 pretentiousness found in the Icelandic nonsense Lamb. It uses the modernity of vlogging and gymnastics competitions to relay a traditional fairytale, complete with classical themes and moral climax. An oeuspicious debut.

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