I was talking to another film critic a few weeks ago and he mentioned catching a screener of Can Evrenol’s Baskin.
“You have to see it,” he said. He added that he spent the last third of the movie looking away in disgust and fear, which is always a ringing endorsement.
The movie burns slow, but ends in a kind of irrational nightmare that put me in mind of the work of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, or Lamberto Bava (no, not Mario territory, not at all). Baskin‘s a movie that doesn’t necessarily make sense so much as it revels in the grand spectacle of brutal horror. As we follow our characters down into the pit of an abandoned building, we eventually arrive at something so bizarre and unexpected that it’s own bizareness and unexpectedness is the source of its terror.
Director: Can Evrenol
Release Date: March 25, 2016
Can Evrenol’s Baskin began its life as a short film, and it’s pretty obvious in the feature length version of the story. It even ends with the sort of moment that’s more acceptable or expected in a short. As a feature-length movie, Baskin‘s a bit thin, which is different from a movie being lean--in terms of content, think chicken wings vs. chicken breast. Five dirty cops are called in for back up. They arrive at a decrepit building that used to be a police station during the Ottoman Empire. Deviltry ensues.
Of course, it takes about half an hour to get to the meaty, muddy, bloody stuff.
Evrenol draws out moments of Baskin to varying degrees of success. Our first introduction to the five cops is a tense and sordid scene. We watch the bro-y camaraderie of this group as they go about their hypermasculine way of life (i.e., they talk about getting laid and try to pick a fight with an innocent kid). As they leave the restaurant, they listen to a pop song and get lost on the road. There are villagers with faces like Rondo Hatton, and then finally the building. Oh yeah, also portentous frogs. In all this lead up, one of the cops has recurring visions, the first of which involves a memory about the death of a childhood friend.
Whenever a short is turned into a feature-length film, the movie usually feels like it’s killing time. Baskin can’t avoid this, but it tries to breathe a little life into its stock characters. A few of the drawn out moments effectively heighten the dread of the situation, delaying the gratification and catharsis of a jump scare. Cinematographer Alp Korfali shoots everything with great care, with some impeccable lighting and wonderful compositions. It gives the pre-building portion of the film an entirely different feel from the bugged-out building stuff. Some shots have a deeply saturated palette straight out of classic Argento, others have a sort of grainy quality you’d expect out of a crime drama.
The core audience for Baskin will mainly be drawn to the third act set piece, which is sort of like Lucio Fulci doing Hellraiser. While the rest of the film’s slowness seemed to be an excuse to hit the feature-length mark, the finale uses the slowness to give the proceedings a sense of languid ceremony. This is a ritual, a vile one, and these are the events of the ritual, and these are the words that are spoken, and these are the screams of the men, and these people (if they are even still considered people) have done this before many times. At the center of this finale is an actor named Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who has a look and demeanor so unnerving that he may become an international horror icon if he continues to find roles.
Baskin shows lots of promise from Evrenol, who seems like an avid student and lover of the genre. The hallucinatory imagery of the film has a unique flavor to it, as does the ritual imagery, and even the cop stuff looks solid. I’m just hoping his next feature feels more like a full-blown feature rather than a blown-up short.