When I say Baskin is Turkish filmmaker Can Evrenol’s answer to Rob Zombie, I mean that as a compliment. Zombie has a very unique style that fuses splatterhouse gore and independent artistry, and Evrenol achieves that same enlightened balance throughout his first feature film. As Shudder’s Sam Zimmerman repeated numerous times in his Fantastic Fest introduction, Baskin leads you straight into the horrific depths of Turkish Hell, but once the Zombie-isms take over, you realize Evrenol’s film is less slasher extravaganza, and more biblical terrorizer. This is certainly a new page in the history book of Turkish horror, and if you’ve seen Remake, Remix, Rip-Off (WHICH YOU SHOULD), that’s an important step in the right direction – but is it enough?
Baskin begins by joining a squad of Turkish cops as they banter around a restaurant table, which works as an introduction to each personality. Yavuz (Muharrem Bayrak) asserts himself as the hothead, Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is a young rookie, Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu) plays guardian to Arda, Apo (Mehmet Fatih Dokgoz) runs the show, and their driver is beginning to go crazy at the sight of hellish illusions.
After some convincing, the driver gets back behind the wheel and begins heading towards a call for backup, but he swerves into a river before they arrive. No one is injured, and the team arrives at an abandoned building with an empty police car parked outside. Thinking it’s a routine check-in, the squad presses onward into the enormous dilapidated structure, but instead of finding their colleagues, the crew accidentally stumbles upon a Black Mass in the bowels of Hell.
Judging by the first trailer for Evrenol’s religious nightmare, I believed Baskin to be a Turkish successor to Jason Lei Howden’s metal-as-f#ck face-melter, Deathgasm, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. These cops descend into an extremely bloody and graphic Hellscape, yet Evrenol remains completely serious in tone. Once Evrenol flips the switch on his psychologically draining build-up story, Baskin turns into a cultish ritual that’s more about speaking in unholy garble than gutting characters for fun. Faceless minions fights over scraps of flesh, served by the blindfolded demon-people who are caught chopping up corpses, but once the whole bloody reveal comes and goes, Evrenol adapts a much more arthouse vibe than expected – hence my whole Rob Zombie comparison above.
It’s with this twist that Baskin both succeeds and stumbles, but I see Evrenol’s film as a more accessible (and enjoyable) version of The Lords Of Salem. Where Zombie jumps ship and goes artistically batshit, Evrenol contains his story to a makeshift dungeon that’s teeming with satanic torture. One miniature priest cycles through each victim, trying to find a proper passenger to unlock even more evils, and Arda asserts himself as a chosen soul. There’s no running, hiding, or fighting – these cops are forced to stare mortality in the face, and succumb to the horrific workings of Satan himself. Evvrenol’s ambition takes us directly into the heart of pure darkness, where meaty hunks of flush dangle from the ceiling like rotted ornaments.
It’s a strong reliance on dream logic that makes this blasphemous behemoth somewhat of a harder beast to follow, as Evreno’s experimentation gets the best of him. Disjointed hallucinations are sometimes just cheap excuses for incoherent storytelling, and while I’m not suggesting Baskin takes advantage of its Möbius-strip existence, the story feels like a series of questions that are never answered. It’s a film built on haunting sequences starring a mysterious hooded figure, as Arda constantly finds himself blacking out and waking up in the middle of a nightmare that only leads to a more horrific reality – but it adds very little closure to his story. Reality and fantasy blur together in a jumbled collection of good ideas, creepy-muscular-midget rantings, naked chicks wearing goat masks, and many other ritualistic nods that are weakly tied together by a blackened plot meant to shock and awe.
Baskin is a doomed adventure that uncovers the Hell hidden inside each and every one of us, but it doesn’t become an overnight success based on intestine-ripping gore alone. Can Evrenol has a vivid imagination, one that will generate many great ideas to come, but his love of vague realm-crossing does make a rather linear plot more difficult to follow than necessary here. There’s a strive for religious beauty, playing with the Devil’s chilling grasp, and a mind for bigger pictures – we just need those pictures to unite as one. Baskin is most certainly a film that should be on the radar of most horror fans, but it requires a certain type of patience and focus – and a love for Rob Zombie movies wouldn’t hurt, either.
Baskin is Turkey's answer to a Rob Zombie movie, which is meant as a compliment in this case.