Friday, 15 July 2016


A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Can Evrenol's dark and disturbing short, Baskin. It left quite the impression here at the House and built plenty of anticipation for Evrenol's feature-length adaptation of the same story. Combined with the rave reviews coming out of the festival circuit, the movie has become something of a must-watch for horror fans.
So would I be baskin' in its glow afterwards?
Or would the viewing experience become a real descent into hell?
Read on...

BASKIN (2015) 

Dir: Can Evrenol
Starring: Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Muharrem Bayrak, Mehmet Fatih Dokgoz, Sabahattin Yakut, Mehmet Cerrahoglu

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

After a haunting prelude on which a young boy is terrorised in his home by a seemingly otherworldly entity.

Years later we are introduced to five Turkish policemen working a night shift: aging, cynical boss Remzi (Kuyucu); young and upstanding Arda (Kasal); crude loud-mouth Yavuz (Bayrak); loyal Apo (Dokgoz); and agitated, tight-lipped Seyfi (Yakut). The officers are sat in a grimy late-night diner, regaling each other with a series of sordid anecdotes about their sexploits. We soon see that several of the group are a pretty rough and unlikeable bunch, picking on the young waiter for no real reason, a situation that escalates into violence.
Meanwhile, the increasing unwell-seeming Seyfi has to run to the toilet to vomit, and has a screaming fit over a nightmarish encounter.
As the group leave they receive a radio call telling them to report to an incident at Inceagac, a nearby small town, to assist other officers.
Despite their initial misgivings the group allow Seyfi to take the wheel — he regularly drives the ban and knows the area and the roads even better than most.
However, as they speed along the lonely mountain roads late at night, the group's impromptu singalong is interrupted when a mysterious figure dashes out in front of the vehicle, causing an accident which sees the van crash into a river. Unable to rescue the vehicle, the group are forced to make their way to the crime scene on foot.
They arrive at a dilapidated gothic mansion and head inside — unaware of what exactly waits for them within.

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): When I reviewed the short version of Baskin, I couldn't help but praise the beautiful and disturbing imagery. This movie version ramps that up even more. The striking lighting and colour palate give this a giallo-sequel feel. In fact the surreal nature of the plot, plus the highly stylised visuals, are most reminiscent of the great Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci's work. Rich deep blues and reds ensure that the film is always eyecatching and really ramps up the style of the picture.
From it's dreamlike feel during simple yet deeply-layered conversational scenes to the more nightmarish, gory, blood-soaked moments later on, Evrenol's film really is a feast for the eyes. He certainly owes a debt to cinematographer Alp Korfina, whose work is flawless once again.
Of course, I know plenty of you will have picked up on what I said earlier about the gore. Rest assured, if you want your horror bloody, cruel and violent, Baskin delivers the goods. It isn't far removed from the excesses of the likes of Rob Zombie, by way of the splattery physical supernatural horror of the seminal Hellraiser
The splatter of the most intense scenes is very hard hitting, with disembowelments, serious eye-trauma and multiple slashed throats on the menu for viewers with such tastes. What's more, the effects work that brings these scenes to life is sterling.
The visuals don't just rely on grue to set the mood either — we have plenty of other disconcerting images to evoke horror.
From swarms of frogs, to the sackcloth mask wearing followers in Inceagac, even down to the distinctive countenance of Cerrahoglu — the film contains plenty of nightmare fuel.
Cerrahoglu has a genetic condition that makes his face a living make-up effect, but there is so much more to his performance than just his unique visage. His take on the demented cult leader at the heart of Baskin's horrors, Father, is fascinating. It's a cold, quiet, almost sympathetic performance, spewing philosophical and poetic lines as he presides over the most gruelling and utterly nihilistic scenes in the movie. It's a wonderful performance and he very nearly runs away with the film. It's quite excellent.
The acting is strong throughout the film, especially from our three main protagonists.
The handsome Kasal makes for a suitably heroic lead and captures the essence of his character well. Elsewhere, the gravel-voiced Kyucu oozes gravitas and is an actor that I'll definitely be keeping an eye on in the future. He's truly impressive.
Finally the sleazy character of Yavuz is wonderfully realised by the charismatic and suitably nasty Bayrak. His is a thoroughly unpleasant role, one of machismo and bravado, a character you can't help but hope gets his comeuppance, yet during the horrors of the later scenes he manages to portray the character's fear and helplessness to such a degree that you can't help but sympathise. This is no mean feat and shows that Bayrak is a very talented individual indeed.
Yet even the characters are forced to take a backseat to the true star of Evrenol's movie – the eerily dreamlike ambience throughout, echoing Don Coscarelli's superb Phantasm or the shockingly nightmarish visuals of 1990's Jacob's Ladder. The film cultivates an atmosphere of mystery and dread through an awesome throwback soundtrack, those startling visuals and the russian doll-like format of the script (penned by Evrenol along with Ogulcan Eren Akay, Cem Ozuduru, Ercin Sadikoglu), which layers dreams upon dreams and often leaves it unclear as to whose story we are watching and what is truly-happening.
Combining the cerebral mindfuck of the best unsettling tales with the gruesome splatter of exploitation cinema, Baskin is a horror film that hits on all fronts.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As is often the case with stories of somewhat unlikeable characters, one flaw in Baskin is that it's difficult to root for the characters. As interesting as the likes of Yakuz are, they simply aren't sympathetic enough to warrant much of an emotional investment until they are truly put through the wringer late on. A side effect of this is that the spectacle becomes the star of the show and thankfully, the spectacle is more than worth the hype.
A word of warning though, less patient viewers who want to be spoonfed a simple coherent plot may find the challenging nature of Evrenol's film something of a chore. There may be some minor pacing issues, but patient fans are in for a hell of a ride late on in the story. I get that some viewers may be frustrated by the lack of explanation but, to me, the lack of explicit exposition works in the film's favour. It encourages the audience to think, it keeps us on edge by never explaining what exactly is going on. It's as chaotic, unnerving and utterly gripping as a descent into Hell should be.
Finally, and this is a matter of personal preference, one of my favourite things from the short film was the terrifying character of Mother, as played by Fadik Bülbül. Sadly, she's not in this movie. Don't get me wrong, I like Father, but surely there was room for two utterly horrifying antagonists here? Here's hoping for a sequel where she gets to make an appearance.

THE VERDICT: Baskin deserves all the praise in the world for the stylish manner in which it combines cerebral and visceral horror. It may not be for everyone, but understandably it is being hailed as the film that draws the world's eyes to Turkish horror.
Personally, I enjoyed the film a great deal, even if it maybe doesn't quite live up to the potential of the superb short that spawned it. However, as a movie in its own right it is well worth your time.

Baskin is released today, Friday 15 July. So check it out! Until then, head over to the official Facebook page here. Show it some love while you're there!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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