Fantasia 2021 – Kratt

By Naomi Roper

It’s the summer holidays and two children Mia (Nora Merivoo) and her younger brother Kevin (Harri Merivoo) are being left with their Grandma (the magnificent Mari Lill) while their parents head off on a wellness retreat. The kids aren’t necessarily thrilled at this (as their dad says to their concerned mother “they didn’t especially object”) and are beside themselves when Dad leaves with their phones. Grandma has no wifi, grows or breeds everything she eats (to vegetarian Mia’s horror) and takes exact change to the shops. To the screen-obsessed Mia and Kevin, used to worrying about their follower count on social media this “back to nature” living is pure torture.

Then granny tells them an old Estonian folklore story about a Kratt, a creature you build from household items that will do your bidding if you give it blood and a soul. To the children this seems like a marvellous idea, the Kratt will do all the heavy lifting and they can chill and enjoy their holidays. Meanwhile, a subplot focuses on the governor (Ivo Uukkivi )who is distraught at people on Facebook saying mean things about him. To stop his slide in popularity he enthusiastically sides with a vocal campaign group lead by Lembit (Paul Purga) to stop loggers cutting down a sacred forest. The problem is he’s already signed the logging permit. These disparate stories combine when the children become friends with Lembit’s children and unexpectedly get their hands on an ancient text enabling them to bring the Kratt to life. It would be fair to say that things do not go well.

Kratt is a silly, gory, whimsical Estonian horror-comedy. It’s an absolute riot that is slightly undone by writer/director Rasmus Merivoo’s  “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. Do you want political machinations, depictions of small-town life, a parody of wellness retreats, gory kills, gentle family comedy, folklore and huge musical numbers? Kratt has all of these and more. It’s all a bit too much and could absolutely have done with shaving a good 15 minutes off the runtime and losing the very long musical segments.

Like The Purge, Army of the Dead and many others Kratt is a fine example of why people shouldn’t have children as they will simply grow up to cause chaos and probably get you killed. Mia and Kevin’s actions cause havoc for their poor Grandma as the Kratt comes to life and promptly starts taking instructions very literally (leading to a brilliant sequence where the drunken Governor regrettably wishes that his political opponents be turned into pizza). The Kratt is a terrifying creation yelling “Give me Work”. The film sets up that the Kratt once summoned is an unstoppable force that will do every task you set it until there is no more that it can do at which point it will strangle the summoners. There is a hilarious flashback sequence to ancient times where the “impossible task” that the children believe will stop the Kratt is revealed to be complete bullshit. Slightly frustratingly once it’s set up all these rules the film shies away from seeing them through to their conclusion (perhaps because there are kids involved?) and instead settles for a properly insane exorcism sequence instead.

While I enjoyed the Kratt storyline I honestly could have happily watched an entire film of the Governor being furious at Facebook and his dealings with Lembit’s protest group. Both Ivo Uukkivi and Paul Purga are fantastic and the politics of this small town were surprisingly gripping.

At two hours long Kratt slightly tries your patience for whimsy and it doesn’t quite stick the landing but it’s still a devilishly good time.

Kratt is playing on-demand at the Fantasia International Film Festival