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One of the more unpleasantly mean-spirited Finnish horror fantasies “Hatching” tends to be a kind of short film inflated beyond necessity into (relatively brief) feature length. It was not, but rather an inventive R-rated fairy tale that sometimes stirs with life amid its fits and starts, largely due to much-appreciated work by cast and crew members. The aforementioned bird-monster had a slimy texture and looked fierce; this would not have been possible if it were not for special effects makeup supervisor Conor O’Sullivan, creature effects supervisor Gustav Hoegen and their respective teams. Also, thanks are due to the ensemble cast in general as they give director Hanna Bergholm space to draw out several sublimated tensions through silent winces and forced smiles.

Sadly, nothing else is truly horrifying or even memorable about “Hatching.” Bergholm (also credited with story) and screenwriter Ilja Rautsi successfully apply Roger Corman’s rule of promising viewers something good ‘n exploitable (in this case: anything related to bird-monsters) once every ten minutes or less throughout. But while your mileage will obviously vary, “Hatching” never really congeals into something that’s as unsettling as it is gross.

What makes Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a quiet prepubescent girl charming at times is her lack of resemblance to her mother Äiti (Sophia Heikkilä). Or maybe Tinja’s just unsure of how to live with her mother’s many expectations. Every aspect of Tinja’s existence is documented by Äiti for her influencer-style blog about their “normal Finnish family.” This also explains why their house has floral wallpaper all over, everyone wears pastels-and-polos clothing, everything on shelves is made from glass and porcelain. That kind of sets up why the opening scene where Tinja’s mom snaps a blackbird’s neck. After it flies into Äiti’s home and breaks some things as it struggles to escape is not so shocking. That would be a good start for a horror movie if only Tinja’s mother wasn’t so plainly monstrous.

Äiti, though, does have some humanizing features even as she is superficially oppressive in the immediate sense. In order to earn a place at an upcoming gymnastics competition, Äiti wants her daughter to practice, practice, practice. But Tinja cannot stick the landing on her dismounts and always seems to land on her side or knees. The spirit of Isä (Jani Volanen), Tinja’s dutiful yet somehow trembling husband seems also crushed by her mom; he just follows orders and keeps up appearances without mattering. Oh yeah, there was that part where Tinja found an infant bird in the forest and reared it secretly. It turned out into a huge bird-monster and produced the most lack-luster coming-of-age identity crisis ever.

“Hatching” appears to increasingly be about either taking place independently of Äiti or being dumbly pissed off at everything she stands for. For although Mum knows what she likes herself occasionally losing control over certain details of her perfect self-image allows Tinja’s growing ideal-persona slip through her fingers like damp sandpaper.

Tinja is also affected by some more social pressures from Reetta (Ida Määttänen), a new neighbor who just happens to be an amazing gymnast. However, even this subplot redirects the audience towards the unexplored strain between mother and daughter that “Hatching” almost completely contains. Apart from the simple joy of observing a young girl bringing up her own literal monster.

I will try not to overstate the creature effects in this review because nothing is worse than overhyping what is probably the main redeeming quality of an otherwise good but disappointing horror movie. Nonetheless, my issues with “Hatching” had little to do with how it was made and more to do with its creators’ lack of imagination. As a character, Äiti is only interesting because Heikkilä performed well and Bergholm directed him effectively. It’s contrived and shallow; except for bird-monster design, there is no space left for human touches in “Hatching.” Although there are some great ideas sprinkled all over it, Äiti never feels alive as a character which makes me unable to recommend this movie for its successes.

Often I wished “Hatching” were more than just several weak jabs at bad mothers who spend too much time online. Maybe you have to be Finnish to find “Hatching” an acidic culturally specific satire. Or maybe there isn’t so much about the film worth getting obsessed about.

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