Overstuffed Horror-Comedy Kratt Is a Charming, Splattery Mess

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Overstuffed Horror-Comedy Kratt Is a Charming, Splattery Mess

Summer is a time for frolicking outdoors, not making YouTube videos. Kids only get to be kids for so long before they’re inevitably yoked to capitalist society’s drudgery cycle. Paraphrasing the dad in Calvin and Hobbes, sending your kids outside means they’ll make real memories of things they did instead of things they watched or posted on social media, and memories of things they did are preferable even when they’re farm chores. The chickens need feeding, the berries need picking, the apples need raking and the firewood needs chopping.

That’s the grownup pitch for surrendering the iPhone and getting your hands dirty, but siblings Mia and Kevin (played by real-life siblings Nora and Harri Merivoo), the misguided, extremely online protagonists of Rasmus Merivoo’s Kratt, aren’t buying it. They love their iPhones far more than their parents (Mari-Liis Lill and Marek Tammets) deem healthy. (As with Calvin and Hobbes, Mia and Kevin’s mom and dad are referred to only as “Mom” and “Dad.”) So when Mom and Dad unceremoniously drop off Mia and Kevin at Grandma’s (Mari Lill) rural home in their sleep and take their smart devices, the kids are understandably not alright.

Grandma, to her credit, thinks Mom and Dad’s idea sucks, too, even as she gamely tries to show her grandkids the appeal of country life, but she makes a critical “oopsie”: Never, ever tempt tech-addicted youths with fairy tales about surly fae creatures predisposed toward indentured servitude. They will try summoning one into the world. Enter the wild-haired, irascible “Little Count” (Alo Kurvits), who might be Satan and who gives the kids exactly what they want: A Kratt, a workaholic being that, on paper, reads a lot like an Estonian prototype for Rick and Morty’s Meeseeks.

Give a Kratt a job, keep a Kratt happy; give a Kratt leisure time and the Kratt kills you dead, an outcome dramatized in Kratt’s opening scene. Mia and Kevin happily oblige their Kratt’s ceaseless grunting requests for work, not at all fussed that it’s possessing poor Grandma; after all, there’s plenty of work to do and Merivoo has a ball coming up with diversions for his kid heroes—played, in case the names aren’t a giveaway, by his kids—to give their demonic peon once the daily chores are done, like painting the house purple and stealing the above-ground pool of the hapless, besieged Governor (Ivo Uukkivi). The movie’s sustained source of tension is the question of whether or not Mia and Kevin—mostly Mia, the elder sibling and ringleader in their schemes—can keep Grandma-Kratt busy indefinitely, achieving the dual goals of preventing her from murdering them and keeping them from having to lift a finger during their unrequested holiday.

Because Kratt is a horror production, we know Grandma-Kratt must eventually be unleashed, but because Kratt is also a lumbering behemoth of a film, she isn’t unleashed until around an hour and ten minutes into its running time—and her rampage isn’t much of a rampage at all. Kratt goes to baffling lengths to pad out its narrative for purposes of theme—commenting on our contemporary overreliance on technology—and of plot—rotating the gears necessary to call the Kratt in the first place. There’s a lot of bureaucratic drama between the hapless, beleaguered local parish Governor and environmental activists led by living colossus Lembit (Paul Purga) over the preservation of a sacred forest; there’s a minor subplot involving a new Estonian supercomputer capable of world domination only if it’s somehow given a soul; and there are cutaways to Mom and Dad’s ayahuasca retreat, because that’s responsible parenting.

Kratt is too much by far, a film made astronomically complicated for no reason other than complication’s sake. Overstuffed and knotty it may be, though, it’s also charming, hilarious and even touching, in between sparse moments of gory violence. At the Governor’s drunken jocular request, for instance, Grandma-Kratt matter-of-factly murders the three-man cabal manipulating parish politics and turns their corpses into pizzas, which is totally gross as well as totally in line with the baked-in expectations of Kratt’s genre. The scarcity of these moments is especially frustrating because Merivoo is so good at staging splatter scenes, and the movie doesn’t arrive at them until it’s closing in on the last act. You may feel Kratt yearning to go nuts with dismemberments and disembowelings when it’s occupied by exposition and its secondary, tertiary, quaternary and quinary plotlines.

Merivoo has too many threads to weave to make good on Kratt’s gruesome potential, though he’s clearly more interested in the mythological and the diagnostic anyhow. The film makes the point, again and again, that technology is a curse separating us from our heritage and the world we live in; the activists coordinate with each other via their iPhones, of course, and even the local Pastor (Jan Uuspõld) uses a drone to track down and recover literally lost elderly members of his flock. Adult hypocrisies comprise Kratt’s center: Kids, don’t stare at your phones all day, now pardon us while we stare at ours. It’s a point worth making and one ripe for comedy, but the movie meanders so much that the comedy and some key elements of horror are lost. Kratt is a mess. But it’s a mess we deserve and one we don’t often see, where the parts don’t fully come together but are so quirky and oddly endearing on their own that they make up for the lack of cohesion.

Director: Rasmus Merivoo
Writer: Rasmus Merivoo
Starring: Nora Merivoo, Harri Merivoo, Mari-Liis Lill, Marek Tammets, Mari Lill, Ivo Uukkivi, Paul Purga
Release Date: October 11, 2022

Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.

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