Dir. Rasmus Merivoo (2020)
Two kids who are forced to spend a few weeks without technology discover the ability to summon a Kratt that will do their bidding for them.
I can honestly say I’ve never seen an Estonian film, so this was a first for me. I had no idea what to expect going in, as I had only seen this film mentioned in relation to Fantastic Fest, where it debuted last year. However, I got a nice surprise of an endearing horror comedy with some great heart and some impressive guts. Director Rasmus Merivoo put together a fun folk fairytale that is part Golem and part Psycho Goreman. Except this time, the PG stands for Psycho Grandma.
The movie opens with an Estonian cover of the Larry Norman song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” a ballad about The Rapture and the people who were left behind after the return of Jesus. It’s a creepy and effective beginning that helps pave the way for an entirely different movie, and it’s only the first use of a creepy religious song to balance out the comedy that we see unfolding on-screen. Two siblings are left at their grandmother’s house when their parents go on a weird retreat, and she decides to put them to sleep with a bedtime story about the Kratt, an Estonian folktale about a golem that you can summon who will do your work for you. What she doesn’t get around to (and what would’ve been a critical part of the story for the children to hear) is that when you run out of work for it, the Kratt will murder you.
That seems like something she may want to have included into the story.
Kratt is a real Estonian folktale, by the way, in which you can build your own monster that has to do anything you say. The creature is brought to life by giving the Devil three drops of blood to buy a soul for the Kratt, and it would get to work gaining riches for its Master. When you wanted to get rid of the Kratt, you would give it a job that was impossible to complete. The example in the film was to tell it to build a ladder out of bread, which would cause the creature to catch fire and destroy itself because it could not accomplish what it was asked to do. Interestingly enough, this is actually the common request that is used to defeat a Kratt in Estonian folklore as well.
After the children build themselves a Kratt and find a way to buy a soul from the Devil, they accidentally put the mythological beast inside their own grandmother. She becomes a bizarre, zombie-like creature who demands jobs at all hours of the day and night, refusing to rest and threatening the children with violence when they can’t think of any other work to give her. This is the main plot of the film, but there are other plots that run alongside, including a politician who inadvertently agrees to cut down a sacred forest he had previously promised to protect and a super-intelligent quantum computer that carries the interest of what appears to be the American government. Unfortunately, this is where the film falls apart a bit, because things get too convoluted for a relatively simple horror comedy to carry. The two hour runtime could’ve been cut by thirty minutes had the story been a bit more straightforward, and I believe it could’ve been a truly fantastic movie had it done so. Unfortunately, what we have here is a relatively forgettable film with some bright and shining moments. Thankfully, there’s enough humor and character here to make the film worth a watch anyway.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy fans, Foreign horror lovers, Golem Grandmas
Bottom line: Heartwarming, charming and funny, Kratt is a coming-of-age tale that shows that kids around the world are all the same. The children in the movie are hilarious, zennials to a fault, and the Kratt-ma is entertaining in her never-ending quest for work. There’s enough in this movie to enjoy even with its almost two-hour runtime and its convoluted plot. It’s absolutely worth a watch, and it’s got some great gory scenes to go along with the comedy. Definitely check it out if you get the chance, because there’s a lot to love here.