It Hatched (2021)

Rating: C

Dir: Elvar Gunnarsson
Star: Gunnar Kristinsson, Vivian Ólafsdóttir, Þór Tulinius, Björn Jörundur Friðbjörnsson

Between this and Lamb, 2021 was clearly a banner year for the extremely niche genre of “Icelandic couples in the middle of nowhere who have a really weird kid” movies. In this case, the parents are Pétur (Kristinsson) and his German wife Mira (Ólafsdóttir), who return to his homeland in order to open a guesthouse for bird-watchers in the back country, while also hoping to start a family. Pétur’s low sperm-count makes the latter problematic, but don’t worry, because help is on the way! Though by help, I mean Pétur discovering a slab in the cellar covered in runes. Naturally, rather than noping the fuck out of there, he moves it, uncovering an apparently bottomless pit.

To nobody’s surprise bar the characters, ominous and weird events follow, beginning with both of the couple experiencing bizarre dreams. Mira becomes pregnant, and with disturbingly rapid speed gives birth to an egg, from which then hatches a baby boy. Despite this odd process, the new mother is surprisingly chill with this, and is delighted when the local doctor (Tulinius) proclaims the child is fit as a fiddle. Pétur, however, is far from happy. He becomes increasingly convinced his son is actually the spawn of the devil, and something needs to be done. What’s less clear, is whether it’s actually him thinking these thoughts, or if it’s the pit – more accurately, what was sealed beneath the slab, by the home’s previous occupant who died in mysterious circumstances – having its malicious way with Pétur’s psyche.

This is certainly an odd movie. Most of the performances feel stilted and artificial, to the point this seems more like a deliberate, stylistic choice rather than a flaw. The conversations between the married couple, for example, never sound like two human beings. It’s more like what ChatGPT would spit out, if asked to write a scene between a husband and a wife. But much of what happens here seems to be in a similar vein. If there’s such a thing as “cringe humour,” perhaps this can be described as “awkward horror”? It seems as much a metaphor for dread about becoming a parent, with Pétur suddenly forced to confront this, when there’s questions about whether or not it’s something he genuinely wants.

The film shifts focus in the second half, with Mira becoming the protagonist as her spouse slides deeper into paranoia. She tries to leave with their son, only to discover he has sabotaged the car, leading to an extended chase on foot across some bleakly pretty Icelandic countryside. Yet just when our sympathies are engaged, the film drops another twist which will leave you wondering whether Pétur’s concerns might have been justified. It remains a rather long walk to get to a fairly underwhelming destination, with too many unanswered questions. Being off-centre is the main dish this bring to the table, and it would be a stretch to say that provides enough nourishment to leave the viewer sated.