Hatching follows a girl who finds an egg in the forest that grows to an abnormal size and hatches into a hideous creature. As the creature's form begins to change, it acts out based on the girl's emotions. And with the pressures of her mother's egomaniacal behavior pushing her to the edge, the creature is growing more violent.
[This movie was viewed on Vudu via rental purchase at the time of this review.]
FINALLY. A body horror-centric creature feature that delivers on the visuals! Hatching was by no means a perfect film in my eyes, despite the large amount of praise it has been receiving from its festival circuit and recent release. But it did deliver on some solid body horror and creature effects that made it a film that will last as a staple of the subgenre for a while.
The cheesy acting, which often felt intentional, was something that took getting used to. The performances played in conjunction with the idyllic mask the mother was trying to enforce on her family, in particular focusing her pressure onto her daughter, attempting to live vicariously through her success where she failed in her own youth. The entire film has this aura of surrealism through that fake lens of "social media perfection", and the film never completely disassociates from it even when the creature makes its appearance.
While I would certainly classify this film on the spectrum of horror, it does have a heavy presence within dark fantasy. That subgenre is often woven within horror itself, so that isn't a fresh take, but it may help a virgin to the film get a grasp of what they're walking into. There's a fanciful feel to the whole thing, even amidst its gross elements, and the whole film feels like a moral lesson or fable.
That isn't to say it isn't disturbing or grotesque. It's not often I feel like I shouldn't eat anything while watching a movie, and this film definitely left my stomach a little unsettled. Not only are the effects nasty, but the manner in which they're executed are disgusting. The film isn't without violence, but a majority of the effects work on display is related to the girl and her creature's interactions and transformations. In fact, as far as the awesome effects go, that's my only issue.
The film has great storytelling and character progression, but because of its structure, the body horror elements that drive it naturally begin to subside. It reminds me of The Dark (2018) in that way, that it needed to progress the way it did, but the horror regresses as this happens. It leads to a less-than-climactic finale that left a lot to be desired for me. There simply wasn't enough comeuppance. I got lost, or at the very least disappointed, by the character choices made in the final act. The film clearly wasn't about vengeance throughout its entirety, but the lack of closure that a horror movie usually offers in that vein left me dissatisfied. [VAGUE SPOILER] For all the terrible things an overbearing and egomaniacal parent can wrought, a little violent retribution would have been cathartic.
There is rarely a moment when something isn't happening. The lean 1.5 hour runtime helps, but the film is also thick with its story, characters, and set pieces. Yet, there is something about that fantasy-like atmosphere that makes the pacing feel sluggish. That pace never changes, so it feels rhythmic and purposeful, but it adds to the dilution of its disenchanting climax. Despite this being one of the best body horror and creature feature films I've seen in recent years, it still left something to be desired, just not in the usual "over hyped practical effects" arena we're used to. It at least delivered well there. Hatching is no doubt a great piece of dark fantasy cinema that should be watched, especially for fans of the subgenres mentioned. It was, at the end of the day, impressive.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 3/10
Film Quality: 2/10