On the death of his father, Tim Webber returns to his childhood village in Somerset to find something sinister is disturbing the idyllic peace of the villagers.
Andrew Lee Potts
One of the big problems with The Hatching is that it doesn’t seem to follow any easy structure. And not that I couldn’t keep up with what was happening, but it didn’t lend itself to investment in the characters. And it was at least 30 minutes before I could tell who was who – and by then, in other films, we are already well-versed in our leads and on their journey with them. Here, I was still figuring out which of the adults I was seeing, were actually the children (and which were which?) from the prologue.
The story begins with three young boys (initially I was wondering, are they brothers or friends?) leaving their home in the middle of the night to go to some sort of zoological preserve, sneak in past a monstrous and deadly crocodile (like directly through the creature’s habitat) in order to steal some crocodile eggs from the facility’s nursery. So, it seems as though it’s a calling out to the Lewis Teague ‘80s film, Alligator – the intent is to hatch the eggs and keep the resulting products as pets? I guess. Of course, the scrawnier of the three boys is clumsy and falls prey to the giant reptile. We jump ahead 15 years, and one of the boys; Tim (Andrew Lee Potts) – and his girlfriend Lucy (Laura Aikman) – returns (having originally left this small English village to escape the memory of his dead comrade) to take over his deceased father’s stone-working business. He’s met with utter distaste by his fellow townspeople and indeed his new employees. Murders and disappearances begin to occur and along with the now-grown, man-eating reptiles (from the stolen eggs 15 years ago), there is a vile and violent human component at work as well.
So there’s some weird sense-memory of the nonsense shenanigans of Jaws: The Revenge here. It’s never spelled out, but why does all of this death and gore take place upon Tim’s return (other than to serve the story)? Are the crocodiles who were actually saved and cared for in the moors – upset for some reason? Why now? And on that token, how did 15 years go by with little to no mention of other disappearances or deaths? Certainly everything that is revealed in the climax didn’t begin upon Tim’s return, especially with these ever-growing creatures swimming about for over a decade. Were they completely unnoticed? I was reminded of the tagline for the aforementioned Jaws: The Revenge, “This time it’s personal.” Like the not-so-subtle suggestion in that howler, is there some sort of psychic bond between Tim and the crocodiles? Otherwise, again – why now?
The film doesn’t have a firm direction. It’s listed on its IMDb page as a “comedy, fantasy, horror”. I get the horror – fantasy not so much. And any attempts at humor, mostly through the bumbling camaraderie of Lardy (Danny Kirrane) and Russell (Jack McMullen) never completely solidify in their potentially brilliant tomfoolery. Think of them as a lesser version of Shaun of the Dead’s Ed and Shaun. The brotherly love – and more importantly, the spot-on humor of that duo is never achieved here.
The locations for the film were beautifully captured by the cinematographer. There’s definitely a foggy and damp atmosphere throughout, and it sets the stage quite well for what transpires in the film, but sadly it’s not enough to compensate for the film’s other misses.
The creature effects are fun – but only when the croc is shown in mysterious wisps of a long tail, or with brief glimpses of glowing eyes appearing from beneath the surface of the water. When the reptile is shown completely free of the water, it’s pretty cheesy. And we’re meant to believe that a creaky old baby buggy would serve to transport a full-grown Nile crocodile? Those things can weigh between 500 to 1200 lbs. Am I being picky? Yes. If perhaps the film had moved further and with more conviction into the goofy aspects, I could have forgiven such an unrealistic moment. As is, it is a funny sight to see Lardy and Russell pushing this giant creature through the village streets.
The score is absolutely distracting and inappropriate. It’s a strange cross of ‘80s romantic comedy with overzealous electronic “scary” music. It distracts and further confuses the film’s already unsteady tone.
With that, there’s an overriding feeling to The Hatching. It’s a constant sense of “almost”. The humor generally fails to hit home. The acting isn’t terrible, but it’s not good. The tension almost works, but then it backs off and you’re left wanting. With a couple of good scares, it warrants a jump or two. Overall, the film feels wishy-washy. Perhaps it is the idea that there’s no completely clear direction. It wants to be scary, but mostly isn’t. It wants to be funny, but falls short. I think the failure lies in the fact that it wants to be too many things. Had it focused all of its resources into one category or the other, it may well have worked. Horror is hard to get right. Comedy perfection is almost impossible to attain. Genuinely effective horror-comedies – that coveted “lightning strike” is achieved by one in a thousand projects. The Hatching doesn’t land in the more positive end of that “statistic”.
Yes. I’m going to be one of those critics (as if I’ve not done it before) and use the film’s title against it, as I didn’t care for the product presented. Here are your two options for a “burn”. Choose as you wish, the final destination is the same – avoid the picture.
The Hatching – immediately remove this egg from beneath the incubation light. Or – The Hatching – it didn’t go over-easy, it was a just a big scrambled mess.
And finally — what’s even more infuriating than the film’s rampant shortcomings? The feeling as the credits rolled, that when all was said and done – the film had certain charms. How, you ask? I know that I generally react to films on an emotional level, and despite the film’s problems, some emotional (perhaps nostalgic) reaction held true for The Hatching as well.
You know what? I plead the fifth, for I don’t believe I can find the proper words to express this strange feeling. Didn’t enjoy the film, but walked away with some unexpected and unexplained pleasure. Go figure.
The Hatching is available on DVD/VOD.