Rating: 4 out of 5
It Hatched is a minor miracle. This Icelandic horror film from director Elvar Gunnarson is jubilantly playful and ecstatic, while retaining a near constant sense of dread and gleeful paranoia. Sure it’s borderline nonsensical in both character behavior and plotting but I hesitate to call this movie “so bad it’s good”, because maybe it’s just good. Movies are rarely this zany or trend averse, somewhere between the stark isolation of The Witch and the bonkers maneuvers of Malignant exists this film, even these films as contemporary peers seem to bear no influence upon this strange, wonderful gem of a film. While the finale may be a bit predictable and foreseeable, the ride there is anything but.
The film begins with a doctor’s visit which is simultaneously hilarious and unnerving, and the film remains in this middle ground, extracting tension from the center point in a venn diagram of comedy and horror. When I saw this film at the Austin Film Festival the entire theater was exclaiming and laughing in equal measure, never really sure whether to be frightened or to release a chortle. The patient, Petur (Gunnar Kristinsson) explains to his doctor that he and his wife, Mira (Vivian Olafsdottir) are moving back to his homeland of Iceland to an idyllic cabin in the middle of nowhere to start a vacation home for travellers and hopefully start a family. From the moment they arrive Petur begins having nightmares that he has difficulty distinguishing from his waking reality and the owners of their local supermarket exude a menacing knowledge of both the history of their new home and of the rural locations solitude. While mysteries spiral out from the ambiguity and presence of this area, the filmmakers do not offer much in way of answers but the environment is so evocative and the execution so crazy and unexpected that I wouldn’t have it any other way, the atmosphere is prioritized over explanation and the movie is better for it, never getting bogged down in exposition so the film can revel in it’s shocking aesthetics and escalating narrative.
The performances are a key component in what makes this film so charming. Gunnar exudes a manic, uncertain energy somewhere between Tommy Wiseau and Jim Carrey while Vivian though more restrained as Mira slowly contorts from an ominous character into something more empathetic, ultimately becoming the protagonist in this dark fairytale. Though the trope of a possible demonic pregnancy is abundant in the horror genre there is a distinct palette with which the film renders this otherwise obvious and trite narrative that elevates the material. Owing not only to the committed and genuinely odd performances but also to the inconsistent pacing, oscillating from sluggish to expeditious. Then there’s the delightfully inventive shots and camera angles, it’s hard to imagine there was an idea on set that someone said no too, this film is stuffed and overflowing with moody, evocative lighting and perspective distortions and shifts. It Hatched is a treat to keep up with, refusing to end up exactly where you think it will while somehow fulfilling genre expectations, it’s a story that’s been exhausted in iteration but as this film displays, not yet in aesthetics or performance.
For those willing to take a risk on a kooky motion picture, It Hatched is a treat. This is an inevitable cult classic, perfect for a group of friends passing joints around and scarfing down pizza. What the film lacks in profundity it makes up for in personality. Should this film cross your path it is unlikely you will find a horror movie as idiosyncratic and singularly fun as this one. Gunnarson is a welcome madcap vision in what is an otherwise largely stagnant contemporary horror scene.