It’s a bit of a challenge encapsulating the film Kratt, available via VOD on October 11. It’s an Estonian production from writer/director/editor Rasmus Merivoo, and while on its face it’s a rather small tale of a pair of young siblings (Nora and Harri Merivoo) from the city left with their grandmother (Mari Lill) in her rural home while their parents go away on vacation, the details contained therein point to much larger concepts of the human condition. There are peaceful protestors who sing their concerns, which is a nod to the Estonian “Singing Revolution” that took place in the years leading to the nation’s escape from the grip of the Soviet Union, and there is a priest who finds it hard to believe that there is devilry afoot. Rife with heart, it’s less a horror film and more of a dark fantasy played throughout for darkly comedic satire, as the children find themselves working with a pair of local siblings their age to bring to life the legendary Kratt, a golem like automaton fueled by a soul procured from Satan, that must be given work to do lest it strangle it’s owner to claim the devil’s half of the bargain.
The town itself is being run by a governor (Ivo Uukkivi) whose sloppy work causes strife among the local citizens, some of whom wish to save a sacred grove within the local forest that falls within the property of a local who has turned to logging to provide his living, all while being manipulated by a pair of more powerful politicians who are playing him for their own gains. Within the old, large manor that serves as city hall is the diary of a nineteenth century count that holds the instructions to co strutting and animating the Kratt, which the children set off to find so that their grandmother can remove the yoke of daily chores and get on with enjoying her golden years. As this is the devil’s business, things don’t go according to plan for the young masterminds.
Most of the journey plays as an exploratory romp, following the four children as they navigate their world around these heady, adult machinations, but there are moments for the horror fans. Aside from the supernatural nature of the Kratt and it’s origins, it’s single minded approach to finishing the work assigned to it is carried out with a brutal efficiency that leads to a few ghastly tableaus that can only be described as horrific.
While the movie may run long for those who are more interested in a thrill ride than a breathing, nuanced entity with broader messages that can be lost in translation, I found it to be a visually satisfying experience with outstanding performances (particularly from the Merivoo children and Lill’s outstanding performance as Granny) and thought provoking material. “Kratt” may not be what many would consider pure horror, but it is the kind of film that I, as a self appointed horror geek, appreciate championing. Not because nobody else will do it, mind you, but specifically because this is the type of movie that I’ve seen lauded over the years by film aficionados as deserving accolades ABOVE those reserved for horror films, despite the fact that the horror genre writ large has been the home to the themes and tones presented in movies such as Kratt since the dawn of cinema. The tone of the film, with its supernatural basis and consistent notes of comedy, obscure a deep cultural tapestry being woven here, along with commentary on the global experience of modern life, through the lens of a Northeastern European lens. Kratt is a film I greatly enjoyed, and one that deserves to find its audience.
- KRATT, Shawn Parks