There are moments when I realize I really need to stop and take a good long look at the keywords that make me take a double take. If I could free myself from those keywords I wouldn’t be drawn in, out of pure curiosity, to a description that read Turkish surreal horror movie. My brain immediately went Ooooh, that sounds different and lovely. Play it! Play it! Bad brain! That is not to say the movie I’m about to offer my humble review for is a bad one. There are always spoilers in my reviews so if you want to take in the horrible delight that is Baskin, look away, look away! Or at least don’t click the more button.
I had to watch Baskin twice to fully appreciate it. The first time I watched it the time was late and my attention span was waning. It felt slow moving and I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on. There was moments where characters were in a different place at a different time and I missed how this happened. I would have preferred to have just let it play in the background where I didn’t have to give it my full attention, however, being a subtitled film I had to keep an eye on the screen to keep up. As a result I missed quite a bit that first viewing. The next viewing went much better and I was able to understand the sometimes non-linear storytelling and the dream-like quality to everything.
The movie starts out in what I would sum up as the perfect head nod to a Dario Argento fluorescent color palate. The music is very reminiscent of 80s soundtracks and I always appreciate that. A little boy wakes to sounds of his mother in what might be distress, but more likely just getting a good shag. Slowly the little boy moves towards his mother’s door and as she goes quiet he thinks of opening her door but changes his mind. Instead he wanders into a living room that is lit up by television static. When he turns the set off the blue illumination falls away and we see a sinister red coming from his open bedroom door. Then a grotesque hand is reaching from that door and the boy rushes to his mother crying for her help only to find her door locked and no mother coming to his aid on the other side. The last thing we see is a hand coming down at the camera and flash to intro logo. I realized I had missed this entire part the first time I watched it. This gave me more hope the second time around.
What comes next is a somewhat slow paced, Tarantino-style scene of a group of cops talking in a small restaurant. Things happen throughout this scene, but only one part stands out before they’re away from the restaurant and back on patrol. I found the group dance in the police vehicle to be delightfully funny. Some reviewers have complained that there’s not enough character development in the story and, after I roll my eyes because horror movie, I have to disagree. I felt like I had an idea of who these men where for what little time I had to get to know them. I know their night started off reasonably okay and was going someplace bad. Soon they’re called away to something taking place in Inceagac to which one of the men offers a little foreshadowing by telling everyone he’s heard bad things about this place.
What comes after is not a directly told series of events; things jump around a bit. Frogs are a thing. We find out that Arda, one of the cops, was the little boy from the beginning of the film. He tells this story to his boss Remzi and the boss in turn confesses a secret to Arda. The scene changes and Arda is now sinking in water. This is a particularly beautiful and surreal scene as he sinks with his arms up and two extremely larger hands reach for him in the water like he is but a doll. We come to find the cops have had an accident that sent their vehicle into a lake. More stuff happens and more frogs. They look for the man they hit that sent them into the water. All the while a wonderfully eerie soundtrack is playing in the background.
What follows I’d care not to describe. Many reviewers say the movie is devoid of plot, slow, then devolves into torture porn. I disagree. Oh it’s disturbing and violent alright, but when you’re trying to fully portray Hell in a graphically accurate manner I think the director was spot on. I remember as a teenager thinking the scenes in Hellraiser that featured the cenobites reality was the stuff of nightmares. That felt hellish to me. I would wager the director of this film was inspired by those scenes and was able to take it in and put his own spin on it. And his spin is not something I wouldn’t recommend for all audiences, even horror audiences. The human animal simply becomes an animal and if my previous film review (Hard to Be a God) spared us a little on the hellish muck by keeping it in black and white, this movie offers it in beautifully vivid color. These are a few images from the catalyst scene.
There’s actually quite a few places in this film to take a screen shot of, but the most truly chaotic and violent (when the officers first enter the building they were called out to) has more of an impact when watched. There’s enough cult-like artifacts to make you wonder what had been going on before the cops got there, but once they come upon the aftermath of that thing you’re just imploring them to turn around and leave. They don’t of course and things quickly turn from bad to worse. When all is said and done and the cops are put through their trials it ends in a similarly surreal and dream-like fashion as it started.
It’s hard for me to use the word enjoy when speaking of a film like this. There’s nothing really to enjoy as I think of the word enjoy implying. It was a very well done horror movie in my opinion though, especially for a first time director. The overall tone was dark and eerie and the soundtrack complimented that tone nicely. The story was not told in a completely linear fashion and that added to a sensation of not quite knowing what was going on. The suggestion of a time loop at the end put in my mind the idea that this is truly hell and one of the most hellish parts of that is having to relive a horrible thing, which Arda seems to be doing. The suggestion of entering Hell in the second half of the movie was gruesome and there was no where in there to get away from that gruesomeness. I didn’t find any of the violence to be gratuitous or not without value given the atmosphere being shown. If there were ever to actually be a remake of any Clive Barker movie I’d probably turn to this director and have confidence we wouldn’t end up with a cenobite who flings cds to kill people. It was good and I would recommend it for anyone who isn’t too squeamish. And if you’re someone who likes to try and figure out what all that symbolism means (frogs, eggs, among other things) it should keep you interested.