Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Kratt

Kratts are sort of a folky Baltic equivalent of the golem. They are invoked by purchasing bargain-basement souls from Satan, to perform arduous labor. They will slave away at all the tasks given to them, but then they invariably go to work on their creators. Rather ill-advisedly, two self-absorbed kids try to create their own demonic drone while staying with their grandmother in her rustic Estonian farmhouse, but they get far more trouble than they Faustianly bargained for in director-screenwriter Rasmus Merivoo’s Kratt, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

The last time a lot of us saw Kratts on-screen was Rainer Sarnet’s
November. That was a starkly moody but exquisitely stylish horror-noir. Merivoo’s Kratt is more like an unruly and unholy union of Stranger Things and PG: Psycho Goreman, but with an intentionally annoying post-Millennial attitude (amongst the children). Technically, the terrible twosome unleashes all the chaos with good intentions, to whip up a Kratt to do Grandma’s chores for her, but it is not a swell thought out plan. However, Merivoo allows plenty allows plenty of subplots to spin out into oblivion, but he always keeps the manic energy cranked up to the max.

Merivoo’s own spawn, Nora and Harri are convincingly rotten and clueless as tweener Mia and her somewhat less horrible younger brother Kevin. Together they are a pair, but Mari Lill is more than their equal as their strange and spooky Grandma. There are plenty of wacky supporting performances, notably including Jan Uuspold, as the Pastor called into to exorcise the Kratt, who channels
Animal House-vintage Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer), which is not inappropriate.

has a baroque DIY style that appealingly serves Merivoo’s anarchic spirit. It sort of evokes the vibe of early films from genre stylists like Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam, without their later reliance on their established tics and cliches. More importantly, it is just fun.

There is a fair amount of social commentary in
Kratt, much of which does not make a lot of sense, because why should it? Clearly, Merivoo suggests social media and smart phone addiction can lead to all kinds of trouble. We’re a little conflicted on the largely ambiguous portrayal of the American military and intelligence services (seriously, we’re all allies here), but that is a mild quibble. More importantly, the weirdness works. Recommended for fans of eccentric cult cinema, Kratt screens as an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.