“A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.” — IMDb
Only the 8th Turkish film to ever be released in the United States, and director Can Evrenol’s feature film debut, Baskin is a grisly ride through layer after layer of hellish dreamscape.
The story follows five Turkish cops as they kill time at a small local restaurant. When they respond to a radio call for backup in the mysterious town of Inceagac, they don’t know what they’ll encounter, but a black mass was far from their minds…
** SPOILERS! **
I’ll admit, this movie surprised the hell out of me. It’s been sitting on my Netflix queue forever and I just never thought it would be up my alley, but I was happy to be proven wrong.
I am fascinated with the concept of Hell — it’s part of the reason I loved Event Horizon so much. It’s just deeply terrifying on a level that I can’t fully describe. So when I realized that Baskin focuses so heavily on it, my interest was immediately piqued. And I don’t say this often — and honestly, I usually hate when other people do — but anyone who thinks this is simply a “gore fest” or “torture porn” for its own sake either obliviously or willingly missed a whole ton of symbolism along the way.
The two halves of this movie differ greatly, but I think they work well together. The first half focuses more on the cops’ relationships to each other, specifically that of Arda (Görkem Kasal) and Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu). We find out that Arda’s parents died in a car crash and his uncle entrusted Remzi with taking care of him. But their bond goes deeper than that, deeper than most can relate to. The scene with Remzi coaxing Arda to truly see — the room darkening, as if tunnel vision has snapped into effect, and slowly filling with water — was mesmerizing, and added some fantasy aspects to the film that I didn’t anticipate. The shot of Arda underwater with the giant, doll-like hands reaching for him… brilliant (and worth the half a night it apparently took the crew to capture it).
Speaking of which, the entire film was shot in 28 nights — not a single daytime scene — and it did wonders for the mood, and the dread, that permeates the whole film.
They didn’t go into great depth getting to know each character, but I think they did a decent job letting us get a feel for everyone. Watching them all escape into singing (and dancing) along with a song on the radio was among my favorite scenes of the whole film.
The abandoned building where they find the lone police officer banging his head against a concrete wall is terrifying enough on its own — just as a physical structure it is so obviously filled with horror — but when they step inside their fears are not only confirmed but amplified. The depravity they find within the walls — severed limbs, bloody bodies wrapped tightly in plastic sheeting, rusty chains hanging from hooks in the ceiling — was like something out of a Clive Barker story. And yet somehow the spiraling staircase down into the utter blackness was almost worse than any of it, knowing and yet not knowing what was within that abyss.
The master of ceremonies — The Father — was perfectly played by Mehmet Cerrahoglu in his first ever movie role (he had no previous acting experience whatsoever). His unique look is due to an extremely rare medical condition — said to be one in 30 million — and it’s just a trick of the camera that he doesn’t appear as short as he truly is. I thought he was fantastic — the calmness, even the delight, with which he delivers his lines is chilling, and he’s got some great ones (it’s no surprise that the character of The Father was inspired by a mash-up of Colonel Kurtz and Pinhead).
I’d consider myself to have a pretty strong constitution when it comes to blood and guts, but the gore in this movie was tough for even me to swallow. The actual content (tortured, blindfolded bodies with severed limbs; forced sex; intestines being casually pulled from a large open wound; eyes being gouged out) paired with the aesthetic of the shots (all reds and blues, dark and gritty with candles as the primary light source) was intense to say the very least. But, hey, we’re in Hell — what do you expect?
But ultimately, I loved the depth of the plot. I loved the dream sequences, the symbolism, the references to religion and culture, to sin and machismo, to fate and death. I loved how open to interpretation the ending — and many other scenes — were. I loved, in a way only a horror lover can, feeling like I was in the midst of some kind of fever dream, waiting to be jolted awake and back into a more secure sense of reality. Highly recommended!
Rating: 7/10 | Director: Can Evrenol | Writer: Can Evrenol, Ogulcan Eren Akay, Ercin Sadikoglu, Cem Özüduru | Music: Ulas Pakkan | Cinematography: Alp Korfali | Starring: Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Görkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Muharrem Bayrak, Fatih Dokgöz, Sabahattin Yakut, Berat Efe Parlar, Sevket Süha Tezel