A tense, brutal, expectation defying supernatural nightmare, director Can Evrenol’s feature debut, Baskin, is the kind of movie that haunts your dreams and keeps you up at night. There is quite a bit to set this apart and elevate it from its peers, but with the level of brutality and straight-up meanness, Baskin is chiefly going to be for the hardcore horror hounds out there. Simply due to some of the imagery and the aesthetics, it’s difficult not to invoke Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs.
The story follows a tight-knit unit of five cops who, responding to what may or may not be a phantom call in an isolated rural area with a sinister, mysterious reputation, fall through a figurative, and possibly very literal, door to hell. As far as the characters go, each one is a type—there’s the wise, experienced boss; the unsure, untested rookie with a secret; the hothead; the veteran who has seen it all; and the guy who is coming unraveled from the very start. However, there’s more depth and nuance to each than is often the case in movies of this ilk, and solid performances turn them into something more than generic genre flick cannon fodder, illustrating how this cadre works.
Because of the time and care Baskin takes to establish the disparate personalities—especially with the chief, Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu), and the rookie, Arda (Gorkem Kasal), who are the main focus—there’s much more investment and connection on the part of the viewer, which makes the horrors they face hit that much harder. But don’t worry, even though there are well-drawn characters in play, people you don’t necessarily want to see slaughtered, there’s plenty of blood and guts and viciousness to be found to sate your bloodlust.
Baskin isn’t a quick starter; it doesn’t sprint right out of the gate. Instead, Evrenol takes his time to show the relationship between the cops, who, while not exactly crooked, are not exactly saints. The early portions of the film create an ominous, oppressive tension, gradually introducing supernatural and religious threads that come into play the further the narrative progresses, revealing a deeper link between Arda and Remzi as it ratchets up the pressure.
When Baskin hits, it hits hard and fast and leaves you reeling. Built on the foreboding foundation, when the cops find themselves cut off and stranded in a remote hamlet full of creepy, hillbilly-style locals, all hell breaks loose and engulfs the crew in a wave of horrific, shocking violence and depravity that sticks with the viewer long after the credits.
Evrenol dives deep with the visuals of Baskin. Awash in cool blues and warm reds that not only contrast but mimic the flashing lights of a police vehicle, everything from the interior or a small café to the crew rolling around in their van to intestines being pulled from a living body, has an eerie, dreadful splendor. The imagery is startling and vicious, but also gorgeous and haunting in unsettling ways.
Baskin walks a fine line between art and exploitation; it’s difficult to look away at the same time that it’s often hard to stomach. Though the pace does flag a bit in the middle as it veers a shade too close to overwrought Rob Zombie or even Hostel territory, the surreal and strange nature of the story, the practical gore effects, and strong performances make this perfect fodder for the midnight movie circuit for years to come.
While horror may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of modern Turkish cinema, Baskin is a hell of an introduction for Can Evrenol and may indicate a bloody resurgence. [Grade: B]