Movie Review: Darkly comic “Kratt” from Estonia could use a little more Crazy

I think my favorite moment in the anti-cell-phone Estonian horror comedy “Kratt” comes when a priest is confronted by a demonically possessed grandmother, and his only prayer is whipping out his phone.

What priest wouldn’t keep an instant crucifix app loaded and ready for deployment at all times?

“Kratt” is a dark, violent not-exactly-kiddie comedy about city children (Nora Merivoo, Harri Merivo), bored when deprived of their cells while staying with their ancient granny (Mari Lill) on her tumbledown farm and too lazy to do their chores. So they summon an ancient mythic creature created out of whatever junk you have lying around the yard — tools, implements, car parts.

A Kratt is depicted here as a demonic helpmate conjured to life in a blood ceremony by the light of the moon. “Give me WORK,” it barks, when it comes to life. And you’d better. When it runs out of work, it’ll turn on you. The kids and seemingly the adults, save for the violent, vengeful and grievance-filled priest, don’t have a clue what to do about this.

Hilariously, if the damned hypocritical grownups had let them keep their phones, the kids could have gotten out of this in a snap. There’s even a youtube tutorial set up to get you out of just this sort of jam.

That’s going to be the only time I use “hilariously” in the review, alas. This Rasmus Merivoo romp-that–never-was is a classic 75-80 minute movie swallowed by a 112 minute long boa constrictor. It takes over an hour just to get the kids the means to create the Kratt, and that’s unforgivably late.

First we have to see the shallow parents — Mari-Liis Lill (Daughter of Mari?) and Marek Temmets — who know they need to keep their kids away from cell phones, but can’t follow their own advice. They drop them off with Granny so that they can go off on an Estonian “AIO Xyacka” (ayahuasca) retreat — God knows what that’ll be like.

Smart aleck daughter Mia has her own Youtube channel. She’s an influencer…at 13. Kevin, a few years younger, is just along for the ride.

The parish governor (Ivo Uukkivi) is caught between a local landowner hellbent on harvesting all the trees in their “sacred forest” and the green activists led by hulking Lembit (Paul Purga) hellbent on stopping him.

Oh, and the wild-haired dwarf (Alo Kurvits, way-over-the-top) running a snack booth on the edge of town? He might be Satan. The kids figure that out when they visit his shop.

“May I interest you in some fentanyl,” he purrs, in Estonian with English subtitles?

“We’d like to buy a SOUL.”

Writer-director Merivoo has lots of amusing sidebars that he throws into this. The kids, when they finally seek help via cell phone, deal with “Vivi,” the Eastern European version of Siri or Alexa. Vivi, how do you trick a Kratt? Vivi is actually child labor online operators working in the back of their Russian mom’s meth lab.

The governor goes a bit mad from the pressures on his chances of being reelected. There are flashbacks to the “little count” who brought the Devil there in the 19th century, and we see the priest beating Wee Satan over all the evils in the world — war, hunger, “promiscuity, gay propaganda, rock’n roll, contemporary art.”

The problem right from the start is that Merivoo can’t see the Sacred Forest for the trees. The flashback, the whole sacred forest thing, anything to do with the governor is only peripherally connected to the Kratt that the kids build which then falls on grandma, who is trying to destroy it. That’s how she becomes possessed.

“Give me WORK!”

Once it finally got going, I laughed at this. And I shook my head at it every time the filmmaker in charge lost the thread and wandered off, which that was far too often to let “Kratt” catch a break and unleash the crazy.

Rating: unrated, bloody violence, profanity

Cast: Mari Lill, Nora Merivoo, Harri Merivoo, Ivo Uukkivi, Mari-Liis Lill, Marek Temmets and Paul Purga.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Rasmus Merivoo. A Red Water release.

Running time: 1:52

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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