Austin Film Festival (AFF) – It Hatched centers on married couple Mira (Vivian Ólafsdóttir) and Petur (Gunnar Kristinsson) who move back to their native Iceland to renovate a remote house and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Petur, who has problems sleeping and sometimes distinguishing between dreams and waking life, starts having visions of strange beings in the home. Things only get more strange when he discovers a hole in the basement covered by a rune tablet, and his wife gives birth to an egg that eventually hatches into a son. His visions tell him that the child is evil and that something must be done.
It Hatched is the debut feature-length film from writer/director Elvar Gunnarsson. It’s a story told with confidence and visual flair. Gunnarsson infuses the entire movie with a dream-like quality. It not only operates as a narrative tool but is very clearly an homage to the B movie splatter fest films from the ’70s and ’80s. The rooms of the remote house are awash in harsh reds and soft blues, as well as dramatic shadows. The visuals are a vivid, disorienting tool. They place the audience firmly in Petur’s point of view, as we try to separate dream from reality. They are integral to the unsettling, creepy atmosphere that pervades the entire movie.
The story itself is one of shifting points of view and audience allegiances. Gunnarsson and his co-writers, Ingimar Sveinsson and Magnus Omarsson, effectively spin a tale about parenthood and the nature of evil. It focuses on Petur’s struggle to accept his son as his own, and Mira’s struggle as she essentially becomes a single mother, trying to care for and love her son in the face of Petur’s challenges. On top of that, the narrative twists and turns very well, as we watch the characters shift roles and change places. It’s a clever, well-written script, and the anchor of the whole movie.
It Hatched isn’t particularly gory or big on the jump scares. It derives its sense of tension and dread from the atmosphere created and the performance of its leads. As Petur, Gunnar Kristinsson effectively portrays his struggle to separate the real from the dreams. His slow change from unsure father to budding mad man is fun to watch. Vivian Ólafsdóttir, as new mother Mira, is both heartbreaking and empowering. She protects and loves her son with an unwavering will. Mira quickly becomes the emotional center of the movie, and it’s largely in part because of Ólafsdóttir’s layered performance.
If It Hatched is any indication as a debut film, director Elvar Gunnarsson could be a name to watch out for in the horror film world. While the visuals are very impressive and a large part of the atmosphere so important to the movie, it’s the wicked script that truly makes this a fun experience. It’s the script that keeps the audience guessing who’s good and who’s bad, and it sticks the landing with one more wicked wink.
It Hatched reviewed as part of our Austin Film Festival (AFF) coverage.
8 out of 10