Can Evrenol’s Baskin was, hands down, the most impressive feature at Glasgow Frightfest 2016. Adapted from Evrenol’s short of the same title, Baskin marks the Turkish filmmaker’s debut feature after a slew of superb shorts (worth checking out here at Evrenol’s website) which have garnered the young director a steady cult following. The film follows a squad of policemen who have been called to a desolate turn-of-the-century police station by a group of fellow officers. On arrival, the group find that whatever oddities they had witnessed on the way, are nothing compared to the horrors lurking within the bowels of the ancient building.
Baskin is going to split audiences. The films lures us in with a fairly straight forward premise and a band of straight-talking characters, then opens up like some garish hell-bound sinkhole to pull us into a nightmare. Simultaneously, the visions are constructed to push us away, continually making us question the nature of reality. First and foremost, Baskin is a film concerned with the barriers between dreams, nightmares, and reality, increasingly merging the three until we cannot be sure of our position in the narrative. For some people the film’s break-down will be jarring, the violence needless, but it all contributes to a mood of confusion.
There are rich preposterous concepts and some of the symbolism feels so palatably Gothic, it’s like Baskin has been dragged from Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, a notion aided by some perfect location shooting and decrepit set design. As the film progresses those Gothic moments feel overrun by a De Sade rendition of Hell mixed with the splatter of Grand Guignol. Thankfully, this film is not populated by individual scares, its journey is a long one constructed to deliver us, the unsuspecting viewer, deeper into Hell, without accidentally losing us through hoakey jump scares.
Like Laugier’s Martyrs, Baskin begins with a relatively straightforward set-up, then flips and confronts us with torture porn. Though unlike Martyrs, Baskin gives a relatively short amount of time to its nastier scenes. Even when the film seems to plateau, arriving at a kind of sustained climax at the hands of its nefarious villain Baba (Mehmet Cerrahoglu) and his disciples, the gore is always a grave threat never exploited to the point of tedium. The focus in the final act is on Cerrahoglu’s spellbinding ability to exude monstrous apathy one second, loving fatherly sentiment the next, it’s about luring us in and horrifying us at each turn without ever letting us drift away.
This type of horror is vastly preferable to the usual drudgery of jump scares, exhibiting a desire to do more with an audience than simply make them jump. Evrenol’s debut is an astoundingly good example of horror cinema, developed lovingly from a wealth of varied influences without ever really becoming referential or derivative. At times Baskin seems to connect Lucio Fulci’s early Giallo features with his later gore-heavy “Nasties”, stirring in the phantasmagoria of Argento’s Suspiria, the blood-soaked bondage of Clive Barker, and the edge of French New Wave. At moments, such references as the ones I just gave seem wholly pointless in a film which does its utmost to scream and shout in its own refreshingly sharp voice. Evrenol here surpasses his shock-heavy origins to achieve something with the enigma and durability of a contemporary classic.
Not to be missed, Baskin is a perfect example of fantasy horror and one of the most stark debut features I’ve seen from the genre in ages.
Dir: Can Evrenol
Stars: Muharrem Bayrak, Gorkem Kasal, Mehmet Cerrahoglu