Hello, everyone! It seems like there’s a constant supply of genre films coming out these days, which can make it hard to keep up with everything. Here’s a look at my thoughts on two recent indie projects, Hanna Bergholm’s Hatching and The Aviary from Jennifer Raite and Chris Cullari.


The Hatching: As far as directorial debuts go, director Hanna Bergholm has done a phenomenal job of quickly establishing herself as one of the most intriguing new talents to watch in the genre space with Hatching. A harrowing exploration of the horrors and pressure that many (if not most) young folks experience throughout adolescence, screenwriter Ilja Rautsi does a great job of crafting a story that seamlessly meshes psychological horror with an unconventional creature feature, resulting in one of the most unique viewing experiences that I’ve had in 2022.

In Hatching, we’re introduced to young Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), who is struggling to live up to the lofty expectations of her demanding mother (played by Sophia Heikkila), who runs a successful video blog that showcases just how “perfect” she and her family are. Tinja is a gymnast who is expected to perform at a certain level by her mom, she wears mostly pristine white clothing, which is reflective of Tinja’s purity in the eyes of her progenitor, and the pre-teen must even passively contend with the nuisance that comes from dealing with her younger brother, Mattias (Oiva Ollila), or her completely ineffective father (Jani Volanen), who is pretty much a non-factor within the family. One night, Tinja discovers a mysterious egg that’s been abandoned, and she takes it upon herself to keep the egg safe and hidden away from the world. But when the creature inside the egg finally hatches, Tinja realizes that her new, bird-like friend has an unyielding and aggressive nature, and then chaos ensues, forcing her and her family to contend with the ugliness of the situation head-on.

One of the things that made Hatching resonate with me as much as it has over the last few months is just how well Bergholm is able to play around with unconventional visuals that heighten the material so beautifully, resulting in a truly unsettling tale of terror that subverted many of my expectations along the way. Many of the conventions that Rautsi’s script explores are extremely familiar to many fans, and while it may not seem all that revolutionary to use genre tropes as a way of capturing the horrors of adolescence, there’s something genuinely refreshing about Hatching’s approach to the various themes featured throughout its running time that makes it feel like a true standout in this year’s foreign horror offerings. The juxtaposition of most of the film’s bright, clean lighting and cotton candy-esque palette against the often gruesome results of the creature’s habits were also great, and I loved how Bergholm was able to make something as simple as a baby taking a nap during the sun-soaked afternoon feel as wholly effective as a typical scene where a creature is lurking amidst the shadows and darkness of the night.

The performances in Hatching are another strong element that helps make the film as successful as it is, with newcomer Solalinna really rising to the occasion here in her very first film performance (well, technically two performances) that is so quietly nuanced and wholly compelling to watch unfold as things get increasingly more complicated in Tinja’s life. Heikkila is equally great, too, and I also must mention Reino Nordin, who plays Tero, Tinja’s mother’s lover, who is an absolute delight here and his character completely surprised me as it didn’t play into any sort of stereotypes we’ve seen before from characters of the same ilk. Another highlight in Hatching is the creature work from Gustav Hoegen (I was thrilled to interview him last month), and I think that both Päivi Kettunen’s production design and the camerawork from cinematographer Jarkko T. Laine also does an incredible job of adding more layers to the story that Bergholm is telling throughout Hatching. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out yet, I highly recommend keeping it on your radar or your “to watch” list, especially now that Hatching is officially on VOD as of May 17th.

Movie Score: 4/5


The Aviary: An intense psychological study of how easily people can fall prey to mental manipulation, The Aviary from directors Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite is the perfect example of how you can make a wholly compelling movie without needing millions and millions of dollars in resources to be successful. Featuring strong performances from Malin Ackerman and Lorenza Izzo, The Aviary is a thriller that feels both timely and timeless and navigates its way rather well through the required necessities of filming during COVID-19 restrictions to create an experience that will leave you guessing right alongside its characters at the center of the film’s story.

Also co-written by Raite and Cullari, The Aviary follows Jillian (Ackerman) and Blair (Izzo) after they escape from an isolated cult known as Skylight, which is led by the charismatic and manipulative Seth (Chris Messina), who has a penchant for doing whatever he can to manipulate the mental state of all of his followers. As these women do their best to navigate their way through the harsh elements found in the New Mexico wilderness, they are constantly confronted by their own paranoia and fears after fleeing Seth, which culminates in some rather disconcerting reveals that push both Jillian and Blair further into the cerebral abyss and leaving them both wondering just who they can trust anymore as they try to find their way towards freedom.

While The Aviary certainly isn’t the showiest production I’ve seen, I think that both Cullari and Raite do a great job of utilizing certain restrictions to their advantage to create a cinematic experience that effectively reflects the isolation that these women are feeling outside the confines of the cult. Because of the restrictive nature of shooting during the pandemic, The Aviary features only four characters but somehow never feels like it falls short, and I think that the natural backdrop that is mainly featured throughout the movie heightens the trials and tribulations that both Blair and Jillian have to deal with during their harrowing journey.

Something else I really enjoyed about The Aviary is how the story explores the dynamics of cults and just how and why anyone would even get involved in one in the first place, since that’s not typically something I can relate to on a personal level. We see how both of these women get caught up in Seth’s manipulations and psychologically driven indoctrination, and I think it’s reflective of a lot of what we’re currently seeing in society today. If you’re in the mood for something more horror-centric, The Aviary may not exactly whet your whistle, but I think for those who are into intimately crafted psychological thrillers, there’s a lot to be appreciated about what both Jennifer Raite and Chris Cullari have created with their collaborative efforts here.

Movie Score: 3.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.