While it doesn’t deliver much horror, the quirky, comedic, and captivating dark fantasy film “Kratt” is full of heart and dripping in charm.
Estonian Horror Comedy Kratt made its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival and then went on to enjoy a run of festivals worldwide, including screenings at Screamfest and the Other Worlds festival.
Kratt opens with two spoilt, bickering siblings, Mia and Kevin (played by the real-life sister and brother Nora and Harri Merivoo), who are dropped off at their Grandma’s house for a weekend while their parents enjoy a much-needed break.
The Merivoo siblings are joined by their father, Rasmus Merivoo, in the director’s chair, making this a charming family affair.
Mia and Kevin’s parents believe that the siblings are too infatuated with their phones and social media to appreciate the simpler things in life. So, their mobile phones are confiscated, allowing them to immerse themselves in countryside living during their short stay.
The sister and brother rebel at first, kicking and screaming against their new surroundings.
But they soon settle into the gentle thrum of farm life, albeit unwillingly, as they aid their grandmother in odd jobs around the home, like feeding the chickens and tending to the garden.
To keep their minds occupied and free of boredom, Grandma divulges a cautionary bedtime story to them about the Kratt.
What exactly is the Kratt? It’s a mythical figure built with one’s own hands that exist solely to work and serve, taking away the need for manual labor once completed.
Unfortunately, the Kratt needs a macabre sacrifice to be able to ‘live’. And at this point in the story, the film casually swerves into mythical, fantasy territory.
Kratt is not a true Horror film, although it does incorporate many Horror elements such as bargains with the Devil, sacrifices, exorcisms, and fantastical creatures. Unfortunately, these darker elements do, at times, lose their impact due to their silly nature. There is never really an urgent feeling of threat in Kratt, much to the story’s detriment.
You may have more fun during your viewing if you go in knowing that the Horror elements are deliberately pastiche or cheesy in nature: the vibe is less Guillermo Del Toro and more akin to the vibe of John Carl Buechler’s Troll.
Kratt does deliver on some PG-13 gore scenes, including a strange Body Horror scene that comes out of leftfield so quickly that you may experience whiplash. The scene does not fit the overall tone of the movie, and it feels somewhat out of place.
There are some enjoyable, corny gore scenes, including neat prosthetics.
The ‘Kratt’ creature itself is charmingly childish.
The notion of kids coming together to build a mechanical being reminded me of Radio Flyer (1992) in the best possible way.
The humor is extremely tongue-in-cheek. And while at first endearing, the meandering dialogue begins to wear thin during the movie’s runtime of almost two hours.
I did, however, absolutely eat up the dark Estonian mythology of the region as well as the Grim Fairytale warnings from decades long since passed.
The standout character is Grandma herself (played by Mari Lill), who takes her role seriously and delivers a loveable oddball performance.
Respect is demanded of the actor’s resilience. She happily takes part in less savory scenes and dons grotesque prosthetics with the self-assured badassery of Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead series.
While not perfect, Kratt serves as a reminder that charm really can carry the weight of a production on its back.
It also proves that a low budget need not mean low quality; this is a gorgeous-looking movie.
Light and shadow are utilized to enhance camera trickery, the creature FX are creative, and the characters are all believable and naturalistic in their mundanity.
Kratt may not be wholly original, and it may lack the punch that other films like Evil Dead pack. However, it oozes enough low-budget delight to please even the most jaded of Horror fans.
Kratt may not yet be a beloved cult classic, but it is intriguing and bizarre enough to more than warrant a cult following.