Turkey | 2015 | Directed by Can Evrenol
Logline: A police squad are called in as backup to a remote and abandoned police station only to discover it is the lair to a horrific, demonic cult.
“Hell is not a place you go. You can carry Hell with you at all time. You carry it inside you.”
Channelling the surreal, nightmarish cinema of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci with the kind of passion only a True Believer can harness, Baskin is indeed a startling and powerful fever dream piece. The debut feature from young Turk Evrenol, based on an effective short from a few years back. What the movie lacks in plotting, it more than makes up for in atmosphere and intensity. This is, without a doubt, one of the most visceral and grotesque horror movies of recent years. But, like all great horror movies, it conjures its own tenebrous, unique beauty.
Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is the young gun in a five-man squad dining at a café resturarant, discussing all things blokey. His colleagues are Yvuz (Muharrem Bayrak), Apo (Fatih Dokgöz), Seyfi (Sabahattin Yakut), and their boss Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu). A distress call comes in from a remote township, Inceagac. They jump in their police van and head out on the rural two-lane blacktop to investigate. But, much to their confusion, the road is endless.
Swerving to avoid a bloody figure the van ends up in a watery ditch. The policemen are bloodied, bruised and shaken, but okay. A local family on an amphibian night hunt find the dazed men a curiosity, and the young girl with the bucket full of frogs, speaks in a foreign tongue, warning the men that tonight two worlds will merge. The men walk into the adjacent woods and find the source of the distress call. An abandoned police car and a derelict station.
Made for apparently $350,000 Baskin (which translates roughly as “police raid”) boasts impressive production values and solid performances. It’s a small cast and the entire movie takes place at night, like a true take-no-prisoners horror movie. Special mention must be made of Mehmet Cerrahoglu as Baba, the father figure cult leader. He is short in stature, but his extraordinary appearance will send shivers down the most jaded horrorphile’s spine.
I first saw Baskin at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain last year. After the screening, at the unofficial festival bar, known as Nirvana, where all the guest filmmakers would often end up, I met the director. I was convinced the actor who played Baba was under elaborate prosthetic makeup. But Can showed me otherwise when he pointed to Mehmet sitting on a stool in the corner of the bar and encouraged me to introduce myself. I was too freaked to do so, and instead went to the bar to order another stiff drink. The movie had had that kind of effect on me, and to see Baba in the flesh, so close, was more than a little unnerving.
Baskin rests firmly on its deliberate, claustrophobic, nightmare fabric, and it’s a stylistic I am more than happy to entertain, especially when the dream logic is handled so effectively. While there is much interweaving of the time and space continuum, there are two distinct halves to the narrative; first half dealing with the police squad at the restaurant, in particular Remzi and Arda discussing disquieting memories of their youth, and the second half dealing with the police squad in the confines of “Hell”. The sense of dread that permeates the first half dovetails nicely into the peeled back extremism of their descent into a kind of Hades. It is here, in the bowels of the darkened husk of the police station, that the men are confronted by the filth and depravity of a malevolent coven, and subjected to their (our) worst fears with brutal precision.
Baskin is a real witches’ brew, the stench of horror rising off the ground like excremental steam from the underworld. It’s a horrorphiles’ demented delight. Throw caution to the wind, leave your conventional sensibilities at the door, and slip your hand inside Baba’s clammy clasp, for he will guide you through the wretched Darkness, but squeamish beware, this “assault” will most definitely make you shudder.