Film Review – Baskin (2015)


In its native Turkish tongue, Baskin means raid or sudden attack and that’s exactly what Can Evrenol’s bestial nightmare resolves to mount upon the viewers senses.

Prepare for all your faculties to be royally molested as this traumatic horror juggernaut tears apart its on-screen characters, the audience’s sensibilities, and not least the horror movie rulebook.

A police squad from the Turkish testosterone division are relaxing over a session of Tarantinoesque goat sex banter when, before you can say “Goodfellas”, the poor waiter becomes the subject of a needless peer pressure induced pummeling.

However, the boisterous fun is rudely interrupted by an emergency call out to a notorious local building steeped in inky superstition.

Cue one expertly crafted musical interlude, by way of an ear-worm pulled from the soil of the public domain, and then it’s off to the land of deranged depravity.

The cocky cops drop down an infernal rabbit hole and find themselves thrust into a savage confrontation with the vicious tapeworms that infest the very intestines of hell itself, in the form of a nefarious cult.

Originally a short film Baskin proves a piquant clambake of genre influences.

The surrealistic misdirection of David Lynch and the palette and lighting of Nicolas Winding Refn merge smoothly with the storytelling aptitude of Steven King and the ultra gore ethics of french new wave shocker Frontieres.

In the twisted universe of Baskin, John Carpenter sits cordially at his synthesiser giving musical cues to an in form Argento, whilst Rod Sterling goads Lucio Fulci into initiating one of his trademark eyeball traumas.

Baskin brandishes an inventory of obvious influences  as long as Nosferatu’s fingernails but what’s cardinal here is the glue Evrenol uses to compose this horror collage.

The Kent educated director from Istanbul wields an expert comprehension of the language of film and a keen sense of narrative timing to counterbalance the long stretches of salty dialogue with explicitly vile violence.

Intelligent and introspective Baskin most often mirrors the existentialism of Cannes sweetheart Nuri Bilge Ceylan who was in turn heavily influenced by the metaphysical intensity of Russian cinema.

Both the twisted sect and the repugnant realm it inhabits are superbly realised resulting in a stomach stewing mixture of straight up balls to the wall horror and nagging trepidation.

The prismatic visuals from cinematographer Alp Korfali and the vividly rhapsodic music from Ulas Pakkan are class acts that lend a phenomenal sense of atmosphere to the nihilistic philosophising and wicked butchery.

The cultists themselves love nothing more than slithering about in unspecified matter engaging in splatter encrusted cluster- orgies and casual flesh-gobbling. A slimy dehumanised clump of rags, stumps, and goat skulls. These twisted visuals create the impression of a subterranean sanctuary for troubled souls that were far too fucked-up for Fury Road.

Another distinctive string to Can’s lethal bow is his manifold use of humour. A degree of knowing playfulness permeates the films art-house credentials and seeps through to season its copious scenes of carnage.

Working dynamically  in the background this filter remains just prevalent enough to enhance entertainment value, yet subtle enough to avoid perverting the pictures fiendish agenda.

This quirky distillation of perspective with its predilection toward the peculiar clarifies the ensuing madness. A purification process that lends Baskin its truly unique identity and heavily influences the much talked about off-kilter ambiance the movie generates.

A fine example of this essential element can be found around the 20-minute mark when the framing suddenly turns upside down as our protagonists speed across the screen. This was actually a happy accident in the editing suite that the director decided to preserve because it provided the perfect transitory signpost between reality and what he describes as “The Twilight Zone”.

Understanding this cheeky disregard for convention coupled with the concept of a domain where the bizarre can bleed exquisitely into normality is key to unpicking the films knotty thematics. Not least the Machiavellian ending.

Dante Alighieri presented hell as a circle based spiritual penitentiary reliant on poetic justice for punishment. Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre used his play No Exit to depict the afterlife as the eternal incarceration of three beings – thus introducing the mantra – “Hell is other people”. Can Evrenol and his majestic film Baskin presents a tenable case that hell is not just an arbitrary by-product of sin, but rather a state of spiritual acceptance that resonates from inside the very core of every soul.

Baskin strives to sway us that hell, is in fact, within ourselves and as such an integral cog in the clockwork that keeps the human condition ticking.

Personal, primal and intensely distressing Baskin makes a convincing argument that purgatory is indeed both idiosyncratic and inexorably linked to the intangible realm of the incorporeal.

Swathed in mischievous Tarkovskian devilry and awash with the vintage claret of surrealist gore cinema Baskin leaves you feeling like you have been relentlessly fuck-stabbed in the eye sockets by a sociopathic sex imp.

As sure as hell the most uncomfortable horror film in decades.

[rating=5] | Bradley Hadcroft

Horror, Fantasy| Turkey/USA, 2015 |18 | Vertigo Films| UK cinemas and VOD on Friday 15th July 2016 | Dir. Can EvrenolMehmet Cerrahoglu, Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu