November 22, 2016 Baskin (Movie Review)
One of the many great things that technology brings to Horror fans is easy access to foreign films. Many of us can remember the pre-streaming days, when we had to scour mom and pop video stores or mailing catalogs to look for tapes and DVDs in order to see how different countries and cultures see the darkness in the world. Now, foreign films are easily accessible and are so commonplace that the Horror genre feels more homogeneous with each passing year. Running the gamut from Slasher, to Found Footage, to Body Horror, and every other sub genre that exists, these films have been key in making Horror films a more robust sphere of entertainment. Turkey is a country that has been quietly delivering new and exciting Horror for a few years now, and their latest offering, Baskin, continues that success with a mind-bending, psychological nightmare that will leave even seasoned Horror fans disturbed.
Directed by Can Evrenol (Sandik 2007, Screws 2007) in his feature film debut, the story centers on five Turkish police officers who are summoned via a distress call to a town named Inceagac. Much in the vein of classic Lovecraft tales, where the evil within the town on the outskirts of society is indefinite, yet palpable, known through reputation more than experience, Inceagac is a place that even these veteran officers would rather not visit. Duty requires they do, however, and thus begins their descent into a brutal hellscape where reality is uncertain and horror is all too real.
Providing a limited theatrical release in the USA, Baskin hit VOD domestically via IFC Midnight on March 25, 2016, starring Gorkem Kasal (Imkansiz Olacilic 2016) and Ergun Kuyucu (Taken 2 2012, Zerre 2012) as the two main protagonists, Arda and Remzi, who have a past with one another. Arda is the youngest of the officers, and we learn he is plagued by a recurring nightmare of an unspecified supernatural type. Remzi, is one of the veterans and somewhat of a father figure to Arda. In the opening scene, the five officers are sitting at a table in a diner having a lewd conversation, trading jokes, trying to outdo each other in the sleeze department. The scene sets up the characters nicely, as the dialogue and talented actors convey a familiar sense of working class camaraderie and bawdiness that is one of the few moments of grounded reality. After one of the officers has a rather unsettling experience in the bathroom, the distress signal comes in and they crash their van on the way to it. From there, things get much, much worse for our heroes.
The main part of the story takes place to where the call originated from – an abandoned police station from the Ottoman days where another group of officers have met an unknown fate. The bowels of the building are home to a religious cult who are led by the very scary and imposing Father (Mehmet Cerrahoglu: debut film). He gives an excellent performance that steals the film, despite the considerable strength of the rest of the cast. The Father is exactly what you would expect from such a figure – a corruption of wisdom and leadership that is one of the more frightening original characters in recent memory. He oozes malevolence with no effort and is inclined to nihilistic, philosophical justifications for actions of his congregation. His visage is as twisted and grotesque as his soul. Once he appears on screen, the film takes the brakes off completely and we are taken through a violent, bloody ride that effectively keeps the audience uncertain and disturbed throughout.
There is something about the last act of the film that seems to come up a bit short. This may be due to the nature of the story – Psychological Horror that lacks any real elements to unpack. In that way, it is more similar to something like 1979’s Phantasm than 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder. Still, the movie is well-worth your time as it delivers plenty of quality Horror drawn from influences such as 1987’s Hellraiser and others. The cast are all solid, with the officers feeling realistic if not exactly friendly and inviting, and the malefic Father as the embodiment of suffering all turning in good to great performances. The directing is also praiseworthy, and for a debut feature length, it shows just how talented Evrenol is. Horror fans will be looking forward to more work from him.
Overall, Baskin is a nice surprise that hits more notes than it misses. The plot may feel unresolved to some, but the journey there is what counts the most, and the film is a journey that any Horror fan will find value in. Available for streaming on Netflix right now and on Blu-ray/DVD via Shout! Factory, CrypticRock gives Baskin 3.5 out of 5 stars.