Sunday, May 20, 2018

Baskin (2015)

Warning: spoilers are an inevitable fact of life!

A group of Turkish policemen (Görkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Muharrem Baryrak, Fatih Dokgöz and Sabahattin Yakut), most of whom are thugs or at least the sort of cop letting their colleagues work out their inner thugs without protest, receive a call that sends them out to a house in very curious rural area. They are confronted with a terrible ritual in a place and time where the borders between our world and one much worse have grown rather thin. But even before they have arrived at the house, the world seems to shift around them, time and place twisting and turning into nightmares that may not offer escape for any of them.

Turkish director Can Evrenol’s Baskin – based on an earlier short film – is quite the film, as close to the recreation of a nightmare (inside of a nightmare inside of a nightmare, and so on) as possible. Even right at the start, when the plot hasn’t arrived at the point where it will actually show anything supernatural or simply horrifying, the director puts quite a bit of effort into creating a feeling of wrongness and weirdness. Some characters show frays at their edges the situation – or simple digestion problems – don’t quite seem to justify. Colour schemes, camera angles, music, and the disquieting way the camera doesn’t show the faces of certain characters seems to suggest doom, dread and create distrust in the reality of anything we see, until the simple act of meat cutting to appropriately sinister music takes on a sinister undertone, a suggestion of one isn’t quite sure what, only that it can be nothing good, healthy, or sane.

The sense of disquiet Evrenol creates is only further increased by strange jumps in time and place that leave the viewer asking if it is the film as one first assumes or the characters jumping around; the way the talk between one of the cops and his foster son seems to concern dreams, omens and the supernatural quite a bit more than fits the tough guy postures of their colleagues. The film keeps this sense of the high Weird even once the policemen have descended into cellar of a lonely house and have become the unwilling participants of a ritual that contains rather more – inventive and excellently unpleasant - gore and torture than films this heavy on an atmosphere of dread (when they’re not made by Fulci and the other typical Italian suspects at least) usually show, keeping the feeling of the ritual as disquieting as it is brutal. Not a little feat once you’ve realized that most of this latter part in actuality only consists of a bunch of people out of a 90s metal video doing metal video stuff to one another in some ruined cellar. The thing is – Baskin never feels that way at all, but really comes very, very close to the feeling of the never-ending living nightmare its content is supposed to be.

Even the slowness of Baskin’s early phases – about the only element of the film I can see anyone reasonably criticizing – fits the idea of a nightmare perfectly, leaving the audience without the crutches of a more conventionally thrilling first half while still building (and building) a feeling of wrongness. And while I can’t say I was terribly surprised by the film’s ending, I don’t think feeling surprised by it is really the point here; rather, the film seems to delight in confirming the audience’s worst fears.

All in all, Baskin is a fantastic achievement that anyone who likes their horror on the atmospheric yet gory side needs to see.

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