Can Evrenol’s Baskin is an expanded version of his acclaimed 2013 short film of the same name. Baskin is a surreal, grisly horror movie, taking a simple premise and doing a hell of a lot with it. Evrenol has delivered an accomplished debut feature, and a cracking horror movie.
Baskin opens with a group of five police officers in a restaurant, among them a new recruit, Arda (Gorkem Kasal), and his boss and mentor Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu). They sit around a table sharing bawdy stories, while outside a thick fog closes in. Upon leaving, they answer a call for back up in the small town of Inceagac and discover the dilapidated former police station with their colleagues’ abandoned police vehicle outside. The five men investigate and uncover a blood cult in the depths of the building.
The cult’s figurehead is the diminutive Father, played by the terrifying Mehmet Cerrahoglu. Under his direction they commit atrocities in the service of Hell and unifying with the cosmos. The Father intimates that Arda has a greater purpose, yet clarity, much like mercy, is never forthcoming.
Baskin is a surreal and nightmarish entry in the world of occult horror. The first half constructs slow-build tension, followed by a second half that opts for viscera over terror. As the cops are led through the labyrinthine corridors of the abandoned building, it’s all tight corners, the pitch black unknown. As they navigate into creepier territory the audience sees only that which is illuminated by the flashlight.
This all sounds rather conventional on paper, but Baskin has much more to offer. Arda is plagued by bad dreams and visions, and the movie manipulates the linear narrative by interweaving the dream sequences with the sequential storyline. We are treated to a strange and gory horror movie, which owes a debt to the horror greats, but is significantly wild enough in its own right to warrant attention.
Baskin is very well shot and full of stunning imagery. It’s a visual treat, or visual terror, depending on your default position; a bizarre meld of witchcraft, rune stones and perverted religious iconography, all drenched in buckets of claret. Once the cult enters the picture we get a parade of occult grotesques, each monstrosity worse than the last, bringing to mind Clive Barker and a grubbier, hardcore Nightbreed.
If there is anything to compare Baskin to as a whole, then perhaps it is the work of Italian horror legend Lucio Fulci, albeit with more sophistication and a higher production budget. But in more than just the eyeball bothering and tarantula cameos, Baskin evokes Fulci’s surreal, loosely plotted work of classic madness The Beyond, with all its woozy dream realities and disregard for story cohesion.
If there is a minor fault then it is the brief plot, which feels very much like an expanded short film. However, it is certainly possible that further elaboration or plot strands would only serve to lose the essence of Baskin. The horror genre suffers more than most from an abundance of over-explanation, so there’s something to be said for allowing Evrenol to pull out the stops and just get weird.
Despite its loose story, Baskin does feel like it has an underlying explanation that may not be fully apparent on first watch. A puzzle to be deciphered on future viewings with, if not logic, then at least an internal theme that ties it all together. As if to further illustrate potential subtext, there is a prevalent lock and key motif throughout. The Father is tattooed with keyhole imagery, and cryptically, there are padlocks strewn amongst the cult’s detritus.
Rather than being a cheap shocker or a vacuous exercise in gore, Baskin’s dreamlike unreality comes across dense and layered. The soundtrack provides ideal sonic discomfort and the movie is full of striking visuals. Does it make sense? Not really, but it’s a wild ride trying to work it out, and on the strength of this, whatever Can Evrenol gives us next will be well worth investigating. Baskin is weird and messed up, and bloody good.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10