Film Review: BASKIN (2015)

Film Review: BASKIN (2015)

Jun 1, 2016

IMDb: Baskin (2015)
Director: Can Evrenol
Stars: Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Görkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu

In the best and most profound of ways, the great horror films that most fans command to memory are the ones that leave you with that stunned, “WTF DID I JUST WATCH???” kind of feeling. Not just the first time, but even over multiple viewings, when you find new things to discover…more bits of the nightmare that may not help it make any kind of sense, but will allow you to get to know your darkest fears intimately. To teach you the essential lesson of how the dark itself is never what you need fear, but what hides within it.

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Turkish filmmaker Can Evrenol certainly understands this, and with his first full-length horror feature, BASKIN (which translates in English as “police raid”), gives us an extremely unique vision of the Underworld that joins the ranks of such films as PHANTASM, HELLRAISER, LORD OF ILLUSIONS, SESSION 9, and most definitely THE RAID: REDEMPTION.

Young cop Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is nearing the end of a shift with his compatriots, including his boss/guardian, Remzi, (Ergun Kuyucu). Following an altercation at a local restaurant, no thanks to the belligerent Yavuz (Muharrem Bayrak), and a panic attack suffered by Seyfi (Sabahattin Yakut), the designated driver of the police van, the crew leaves, allegedly to return to their station and end their shift, when they get a distress call for backup, from a patrol in a nearby backwater town.

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Apparently, Seyfi is pretty familiar with the rumors about the place, and lets his friends know that it’s pretty much bad news. Having no choice, they decide to answer the call, when they’re side-tracked after almost hitting one man darting across the road, and then smashing into another, which results in the van ditching into a nearby lake. Strangely enough, the crash still puts them only a short walk away from their destination….it’s only when they reach it, that the movie takes its demonic turn into Clive Barker-esque territory.

But make no mistake about it; Evrenol certainly makes it clear that watching the work of Carpenter, Lynch, Del Toro, Barker, Cronenberg and other horror greats, has informed him in how to ’speak’ the language of filmic fear.  And yet even with all of those influences sharply evident, he still delivers something that is as original as any of the classics he was inspired by, when they first burst onto the scene.

Although I have attempted here to outline the main plot of BASKIN, it doesn’t follow the rules of linear storytelling at all.  Arda, who is actually the film’s “hero”, if you can call him that, pretty much becomes our guide, as his visions, dreams and flashbacks into childhood memory inform the story, and provide some – even if not adequate enough – answers to the hows and whys of the mayhem and madness that ensues, once the hard-bitten uniforms literally enter a Hell they never considered.

Evrenol, his cinematographer, Alp Korfali, and his editor Erkan Ozekan have ensured that the images, cutting and pacing are done in such a way that recalls the dreadful, dreamy terror of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and PHANTASM, but with startling flourishes informed by pagan symbols and ceremony, and native folklore. You are always as off-balance as Arda and his hapless friends; never quite knowing what fresh new horror lurks around the next corner, and helpless to do anything except discover and face it, no matter what that might mean.

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And speaking of meanings, as mentioned above, don’t bother to look for a straight-ahead narrative here, in-between the blasts of jaw-dropping gore and torture. Without spoiling anything, much of what you will experience is all about subjective interpretation – if you as an audience member, decide to try to decipher what Evrenol is trying to say here about guilt, redemption, suffering and sacrifice, your answer is probably going to be way different from that of the two or three friends you’ll want to view this with. Even the ending, which appears to bring the story to a definite close, actually raises even more questions, as it (sort of) provides a few more answers.

Kudos to the entire cast for performances that captivate the audience, even if they’re not familiar with the language. And the terror inspired by the leader of the group the cops soon run afoul of, played with balls-out commitment by Mehmet Cerrahoglu, needs no translation whatsoever. His strange countenance that combines ancient, intractable evil with an almost childlike honesty, will probably be haunting your dreams for a quite a while.

Not the least bit surprised that this one has snagged more than a few audience and festival awards…I’d say they were well-deserved, and Can Evrenol is well on his way to a career that I can only hope will give us more films as confounding and terrifying as BASKIN.

Four out of five stars for this one.

Trailer: