baskin_3Year: 2015
Director: Can Evrenol
Writer(s): Can Evrenol, Ogulcan Eren Akay, Cem Ozuduru, Ercin Sadikoglu
Region of Origin: Turkey
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 97 mins

Synopsis: A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building. (Source)

“Hell is not a place you go to, you carry hell with you at all times”, says a character in Can Evrenol’s Baskin. It’s a line that best sums up Evrenol’s impressive debut, a gory mix of surreal psychological fear and savage brutality. Extrapolated from Evrenol’s short film of the same name, the director’s satanic thriller has all of the hallmarks of a memorable cult classic in the making, even if it stops just short of being perfect. Still, there’s no denying Evrenol’s skill and style behind the camera, taking a scary premise and executing it in a way we don’t expect, for an undeniably dark ride that examines the darkest recesses of the human mind.

The story focuses on four cops stationed in Istanbul. After a quiet night, they to respond to a distress signal requesting for backup. The group quickly finds that they may be in over their heads when the get into an accident enroute, plummeting their van into a small lake and getting stranded in an unknown part of town that should be familiar to them. When they finally descend upon the source of the distress signal, they discover an abandoned police station. Unbeknownst to them, it’s host to a satanic black mass, with divine intervention acting as an architect, and allowing these four men to challenge fate and their greatest fears.

While the story is a bit sparse and maybe doesn’t have enough to facilitate the entire runtime, Evrenol’s inventive thriller easily keeps us invested by placing equal emphasis on both physical horror and intangible primal fear. To his credit, Evrenol never relies on traditional action, denying his cops from ever going in guns blazing. Instead, he allows for slow reveals, favoring dark, shadowy hallways littered with frogs, candles, strange twined objects hanging from ceilings, before finally unloading an orgiastic satanic onslaught of mutilated bodies, chained beasts and disembowelment. The plot also alternates between the decrepit police station and the mind of the youngest cop, Arda, in which he receives messages from his mentor and father figure about the spiritual nature of their ordeal. With each act loosely framed by these eerie conversational interludes, the film finds a nice contrast between overt savagery and a distinct, otherworldly tinge.

baskin_2In truth, cast is more than the film needs, with some great chemistry (even sharing a musical number early on) and an ability to make unlikeable characters interesting, but two performers in particular stand out – Gorkem Kasal as the young Arda, and Ergun Kuyucu, as Remzi, his mentor. These two are the ones that make the film’s ordeal hold more weight, giving the story its emotion and making the violence feel a bit more wrenching when it matters most.

As twisted spectacle, Baskin fully delivers. It’s a deranged Turkish delight (forgive me for that pun) that hits all the right notes and is replete with a charismatic villain that near steals the show in its final act. Though the film’s fascinating mythology doesn’t feel quite fleshed out and leaves an existential slant slightly unsatisfying, there’s still plenty to love about this spiraling nightmare, and seasoned gorehounds are bound to revisit it more than once.