Baskin Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Vertigo Films
Directed by Can Evrenol
Written by Can Evrenol, Olgucan Eren Akay, Cem Uzuduru, Ercin Sadikolgu
2015, 97 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
UK Theatrical & VOD release on 15th July, 2016
Mehmet Cerrahoglu as Baba/The Father
Gorkem Kasal as Arda
Ergun Kuyucu as Remzi
Muharrem Bayrak as Yavuz
A gang of leery male police officers get more than they bargained for when they play backup to a missing squad of colleagues in rural Turkey. Having accidentally crashed their bus and already suffering some pretty terrible portents, they’re off to a rough start well before the excrement hits the fan. And boy does it, a veritable wheelbarrow of the stuff, taking in a trapdoor to Hell itself, a creepy sex slash death cult and one of the creepiest antagonists ever seen in a horror film.
There’s nothing quite like a first viewing of Baskin, a trippy, bleak cross between Kill List and Hellraiser by way of A Serbian Film and [REC]. It comes at you from two angles, bouncing infrequently from its waking nightmare and probable reality to its ongoing and also plausible reality dream/flashback sequence – only occasionally making more sense than that sentence itself. Of its characters, Baskin’s manly men are thinly sketched, from the patriarchal team leader to the bland but sympathetic one (effectively the eyes of the audience), sweaty wild card and macho guys. There’s barely anything to them but what needs to be – vessels for the film’s ideas on religion, sex and masculinity.
To the torture basement/Hell, where some of the most troubling and memorable imagery you’ve seen in years is unleashed upon one’s vulnerable eyes. Its shorter, weirder (yes, really) Turkish equivalent of Michael Berryman is there unveiled to tremendous effect – a man who looks like a cross between a Jim Henson muppet and a Bo Selecta mask (sorry, guy) and absolutely owns his time in Baskin. To say much more would be to ruin the spoils of one of the year’s most striking and unsettling horror films. Like every one of the films mentioned so far, it’s a piece of cinema which deserves to be viewed with as much ignorance as possible. Bask in that weirdness (sorry), for it can never be experienced for the first time again.
Will there be further viewings? Unfortunately, unlike the rest of its arthouse kin, there doesn’t seem to be a lot else going on beyond the surreal imagery and non-linear narrative. The shock and gore it does very well, but that’s not connected to much originality in the way of story or message. There are times where it feels awfully close to Arthouse Horror By Numbers, from the sexual transgressions to the grit and grime with which it is filmed. It doesn’t last long either, over before it has really begun and ending on an abrupt twist which will irritate just as many as those who think it clever (see also: The Witch).
Still, self-consciously clever is preferable to lazy complacency, and Baskin is anything but rote. Even if it’s just watching the cops as they sit and chat filth to each other in a grubby Tarantino-esque manner, it’s always magnetic, from beginning to end. Not bad work at all, given that this is director Can Evrenol’s first feature film (based on an earlier short of the same name). Here’s hoping that the talented director manages to shoot off a few more classics of his own before inevitably being snapped up by Hollywood. The (trap)door is left open for a sequel too, which might not be a bad idea in this case: its world is one I’d love to see more of – and preferably with lots of breakout star Mehmet Cerrahoglu.
Had Baskin partnered its impressive atmosphere with something a mite more substantial, we could have had something truly special on our hands - the next Martyrs or Serbian Film, even. It’s a Turkish Delight, sure, but only scarcely is it more filling than the non-metaphorical kind.