What is a Kratt? A servant made of junk, animated with blood magic, who according to Estonian legend must be kept busy with work lest it return to feast on more of the blood that created it. As depicted in beautiful arthouse medieval fantasy November (Rainer Sarnet, 2017).
What is Kratt (2020)? An Estonian children’s film from director Rasmus Merivoo, about a bored brother and sister (Nora and Harri Merivoo, yes, the director’s kids) who are sent to live with their grandmother (Mari Lilli) in the sticks, locate a magic tome, and team up with some new friends to build a kratt who can do their chores for them.
So far, so children’s fantasy. But here’s the thing. Kratt’s influences seem to veer from Time Bandits-era Terry Gilliam to Explorers (1985), Game Over (aka 3615 Pere Noel, 1989), Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend (1986), and it even has a bit in common with 2020’s Psycho Goreman. What I mean to say is… it looks like a kid’s movie. But people die in this film. A lot. And there’s quite a bit of blood. And neo-paganism. And, let’s be clear, a surprising number of jokes about fentanyl. At one point the daughter boasts directly to Satan that Estonia will soon be implementing Universal Basic Income. Also there’s a supercomputer and the CIA.
So, what is Kratt (2020)? It’s kind of a family film. But it’s not like other family films. This is a cool family film: deadpan, nasty, gleeful. It shows a genuine understanding of the logic and darkness of children’s fantasy lives. Shhh, adults don’t deserve it, the kids should keep it for themselves… cannibalism and all.
Kratt is currently playing on demand at the Fantasia Film Festival, and assuming the CIA don’t intervene I dearly hope it will be coming to a streaming service near you soon.