Thirty-one days of horror started three years ago when we were at the height of quarantine. October has always been a favorite month with lots of events—readings and get-togethers with my chapter of the Horror Writers Association, haunted houses, and always a big Halloween party on the thirty-first. But with everything still closed at the end of 2020, we had to come up with another way to celebrate. So my sister and I decided to watch a horror movie for each night of October, where we took turns picking a film each night. The only rule was that neither of us could have seen it before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS1oDoElwqc
It’s become a wonderful experiment where I watch things I would never normally pick out for myself, and there’s a huge sense of competition because we always want to outdo each other with our choices. There have been a few stinkers, like The Lighthouse and Climax. But generally, it has elevated my horror game. We usually end up watching a fair amount of foreign horror films because those end up being the movies we haven’t seen yet. And a lot of times those are really scary for me because they don’t follow the American horror tropes that I know so well.
My sister had been thinking on her choice for a couple of days and selected HATCHING, a 2022 Finnish horror film that’s available on Hulu. I watched the trailer and was looking forward to sinking my teeth into this one. It had a Grimm fairy tales feel to it, but also included sports and modern twists. We had to restart the movie at the beginning because somehow the settings were tuned to English narration. We were getting a very creepy monotone voice saying things like “IFC logo appears with blood dripping off the I; girl appears in blue leotard; there is tickling.” Disturbing already and worth a laugh, but we prefer to hear the foreign movies in their original language with English subtitles. And sometimes I can even understand some of the words with my hodgepodge knowledge of German, Spanish, and Italian.
Once we got HATCHING properly started, I was creeped out by the perfect polish of this perfect Finnish family in their perfect house. Lots of blond hair, two children playing, and fuzzy zoom-ins of Mom and Dad kissing while their daughter looks on fondly and her brother rolls his eyes. Then the tableaux is shattered as a bird strikes the living room window.
We zoom out of this stylized family portrait in its IKEA-style setting and now see that Mom’s holding her phone on a selfie stick as she cobbles together content for her vlog. She’s an influencer using her family as props and intends for the focus to always fall on her. However, it’s her daughter Trija, her oldest child on the precipice of puberty, who steals the film. And it’s a wonder to see. Siiri Solalinna plays Trija, and the many expressions this young actress uses to portray this people-pleasing daughter are like quicksilver, portraying so many facets of her character.
My favorite is eye-of-the-tiger Trija when she’s training hard as a gymnast for her first big competition, something that Mom (Sophia Heikkilä) has been amping up on her channel. The intensity of her eyes as she jogs could burn down trees. Mom ends up being a stage mother of staggering proportions, forcing her daughter to practice routines until her hands are blistered. Trija finds an egg in the creepy woods and bonds with it while her mother is away during the weekends for “vlogging” conferences—yeah, right.
Eventually, this egg hatches into something, and I can’t say I was in love with the look of the thing when it emerged. It was giving me goofy Howard the Duck vibes, but it does morph through the course of the film becoming something deep and meaningful for Trija as this mother-daughter saga unfolds.
There are some genuine gross-out moments where I was holding my hand over my mouth, feeling my gorge rise. I thought, You’re not going down that road. But yes, director and writer Hanna Bergholm did, and I’m not mad about it.
All in all, a wonderful film to start off 31 Days of Horror.