Elvar Gunnarsson’s first feature is not your typical horror comedy
Director Elvar Gunnarsson had never thought he would do a horror film. And yet, his directorial debut, horror comedy ‘It Hatched’, is out now in Icelandic cinemas. “I like horror films. But I was probably betting on something else,” admits Elvar. He talks about the struggles of a first-time director, the inspiration behind the film, and why it’s absolutely fine that not everybody would get his work.
Unleashing the demon
‘It Hatched’ starts in a rather straightforward way, following the main characters Pétur and Mira on their journey from Nashville, Tennessee to Iceland, with plans to open a guesthouse. But once they arrive in Iceland, things start to get weird.
“Their plans are soon altered. A demon starts harassing them, giving them night terrors,” shares Elvar. “Soon after that, Mira lays an egg, which hatches into a healthy infant. Then they have to deal with the tallest task so far—parenting,” Elvar says, adding: “Basically, it’s just a film about bad communication.”
Elvar co-wrote the story together with Ingimar Sveinsson and Magnús Ómarsson. “Maybe somewhere in the beginning, we felt that it was a typical horror film, but pretty soon, we started to find it way too amusing for it to be extremely serious,” he says.
Most of the film was shot in 2015-2016 in the beautiful Westfjords, followed by almost six years of post-production and a pandemic-infused delay of the release.
The camera work in ‘It Hatched’ deserves a special mention—Elvar for sure knows how to frame a good shot: be it a view over the remote fjord or something mundane like sunny-side-up eggs. He experiments with angles, light and music (remarkably, most of which he composed himself). Faded colours prevail throughout the movie, immediately making you think that the events take place back in the 1970s. “It’s timeless in a way, but it happens in the present time,” Elvar explains.
A pinch of honesty
“Honestly, I think it’s not a film for everybody,” Elvar says. “We are referencing b-movies, and that’s something that not everybody will get.” B-movies are low-budget films, often associated with bad acting and poor special effects. ‘It Hatched’ was particularly inspired by films Elvar enjoyed as a teenager, including films by Italian directors such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci and Japanese Kōji Wakamatsu.
“I’ve always found the seriousness of cinema pretty silly,” Elvar admits. “We take things extremely seriously as filmmakers.” Sticking to the boundaries of a particular genre was never set to be his approach. “That’s an opinion I had growing up. I think it’s a movie for the teenage me. I’m not really concerned with general comedy buffs or horror buffs.”
Interestingly, despite being an Icelandic production, ‘It Hatched’ was shot in English. “It’s partly practical,” says Elvar. “It’s not a government-funded film, therefore, it has to make money somewhere.”
“Making a movie without actual funding was a difficult task altogether,” says Elvar. “But probably the most difficult thing about making the film was just sticking to it.”
Getting the movie out there
“The reality is that most films don’t make it out there,” says Elvar. “I made a movie from nothing. And it’s out there on a global scale.” He notes that the movie is not breaking records in the Icelandic cinemas and is instead doing better internationally: “In the US, it’s out on Apple TV, Amazon, Hulu and so on. It’s doing way better there than in Iceland.”
Despite the relatively small splash ‘It Hatched’ has made in its country of origin so far, it’s an amusing, multi-layered story that won’t leave you indifferent. As for the director, what’s next on the cards for Elvar Gunnarsson? “I would really want to do something extremely Icelandic,” he says.
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