Kratt Review: A Charming Folk-Horror Comedy

Kratt, the new film from Estonian writer/director Rasmus Merivoo, is immediately upfront about its irreverent tone. The film opens in 1895, where dead bodies surround an estate, and a man asks for work before killing the man who doesn’t give him any. It’s a brief prologue, but one that introduces us to the film’s sensibilities.

The main story centers on tween siblings, Mia (Nora Merivoo) and Kevin (Harri Merivoo), who are left at their grandma’s rural home without their cellphones for a summer. The kids initially struggle with life offline but are soon drawn into a creative endeavor by one of their grandmother’s stories.

She tells them about kratts, and how she had sought to find an old Count’s journal which contained instructions on creating them as a girl but was never able to find it. Kratts, as the movie explains, are creatures made of whatever items can be fashioned into a makeshift body and given a soul by offering the devil three drops of blood. The idea is that kratts will work, allowing their master to relax, but of course, creating a kratt has consequences.

A Lot of Ground to Cover

Kratt covers a remarkable amount of narrative ground early on. Within the first fifteen minutes, the film introduces Mia, Kevin, and their grandmother (Mari Lill), another pair of siblings who the leads befriend, a group of Facebook organizing environmental activists, a lumber harvester, and several politicians. The film manages to introduce all of these characters, and their connections, without ever feeling overburdened. Merivoo’s light and humorous tone and style make each introduction a joke and a narrative beat.

Surprisingly, given the film’s prologue, it takes more than half an hour for the main narrative to take a turn into the supernatural. Once it does, the film largely remains the same. Its humor is pushed farther into irreverence, but the movie never becomes an outright horror movie. Even some shocking moments of gore are presented as funny, and downright silly jokes about farts balance out these moments.

The problem comes when Kratt continues to introduce new characters and elements almost two-thirds of the way through its runtime. Its many threads have been beautifully woven together up to that point, but when more characters are introduced, while they may well suit the film’s commentary goals, they drag the film down by slowing its momentum.

Muddled Commentary

From the start, Kratt is clearly interested in social media and our relationships with technology. The kids talk about the impossibility of surviving without their phones and how their followers will worry about them. The environmental activists are just as interested in taking new cover photos as in protecting the forest.

Sadly, these scenes often feel dated. It’s not clear whether that’s because the film was made two years ago and is only getting a US release now, because culture takes time to move from the US to Europe, or because Merivoo simply isn’t that in touch with how people use social media. It’s not that they have nothing worthwhile or interesting to say; it’s just that it feels as though these concerns about human relationships have been stated before.

But Kratt is also clearly interested in concepts of power, as the film spends a significant amount of time with the governor of the small parish where the film takes place. The governor (Ivo Uukkivi) isn’t portrayed as good or bad, in fact he’s portrayed largely as simply sad, someone who desperately wants to make everyone happy and cannot.

At one point, there’s a conversation between the governor and other local bureaucrats about actually getting anything done being secondary (if that) to the fundamental goal of simply maintaining power and comfort. It doesn’t feel particularly revolutionary but has some bite (even if it, like the social media commentary, is unoriginal).

Towards the end of the film, there’s an attempt to connect the story of the kratt to modern technology. A character says that a revolutionary new technology is simply a tool. Without a soul, it cannot be either good or bad. So there’s a sense that the film’s ultimate message is about not taking the easy way out of things and truly doing the work, but it’s unclear exactly which work.

Fun and That’s Enough

Kratt is a joyous and silly movie, even when engaging in social commentary. While not all that commentary lands or feels particularly incisive, the film looks great and offers laughs throughout. It’s a small-scale movie with a lot going on. But at the end of the day, it’s a movie about kids getting in over their heads with something supernatural that plays that premise (almost) as lightly as possible. It’s not must-see stuff, but it’s worth seeking out for fans of films that meld the spooky and the silly.

6/10 SPECS

Kratt will be available on VOD platforms beginning October 11.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Kyle Logan studied philosophy and now constantly overthinks music and movies.

He’s a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Cultured Vultures, Chicago Film Scene, Castle of Chills, and Filmotomy. Kyle has covered virtual film festivals including the inaugural Nightstream festival in 2020 and the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival. Kyle is interested in horror films, animation, Star Wars, and Adventure Time, as well as older genre films written and directed by queer people and women, particularly those from the 1970s and 80s. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.