2016 Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Mehmet Cerrahoglu
This horror debut from Turkey centres around a rookie policeman and his unit. After finishing up a late night dinner they respond to a call but swerve off the road and crash somewhere in the woods. It is here they meet some strange characters who point them in the general direction of civilisation, the unsuspecting officers however find only terror and despair when they uncover a black mass and a mysterious gateway to Hell.
Baskin starts out introducing us to our main characters, sitting in a diner chatting un-pleastries and wise cracking. This quickly lets the audience know they are a light-hearted bunch, yet they all share a strong bond and sense of duty. A recurring theme is laid out early on in the form of dream sequences that rookie cop Arda has about the soul of his childhood friend visiting him in the middle of the night. These sequences are have a very different tone to the rest of the film and are always presented in a psychedelic art style. These sequences gradually become more frequent and give way to some clarity as the film progresses.
Although Baskin has only a 90 minute-ish runtime, director Can Evrenol sticks firmly to the slow burn approach. This is handled skillfully and it was evident he had really brushed up on horror films of old. He took his time and really let the audience get a sense of what each member of the unit was like, This made me feel almost like a silent member of the unit travelling alongside the four officers. This agonising crawl and slow burn approach made the tension and sense of dread almost unbearable, these feeling are soon justified as we pass the halfway point...
The second half of Baskin kicks in before you even have time to blink and soon the blood is spilling left, right and centre. The black mass worshippers have the appeareance of something straight from your nightmares and are really chaotic and frantic in the way they move. Some of them were lumbering giants, others shrieking and wailing machete wielders. The imagery and locations were equally as blood soaked and disturbing as their inhabitants. Flesh hooks, buckets of raw meat and sculptures made entirely of human bones are just a few of the horrific ornaments that made for some great set design.
The finale however is when things start to take a dive. Once the officers enter the chamber and gateway to hell I immediately got the sense that the film would not really go further than this room, sadly my fears were confirmed.
It is in this final chamber where each officer is subjected to prolonged and extremely graphic scenes of torture. While these were handled well (one of the nastiest disembowlining scenes in recent years) they just lacked any sort of impact. The star of the show was actually the character of Farther, a shrunken and shrivelled sadist who was intent on opening the gateway.
His very presence and image were scarier than any of the blood letting at this point. We are given further glimpses into the earlier mentioned dreams of Arda. these are then loosely tied to the black mass and the film supposedly comes full circle. However with all the psychedelic effects and and jumping back and forth between points in the film's timeline, it became difficult to connect the dots and make sense of just what the reveal was. Through in subtitles on top of all this chaos and you have quite the brainteaser on your hands.
I wanted Baskin to be brilliant, I always support new talent and open my mind to débuts from all over the globe. The team behind this film are extremely talented and clearly have a love for the genre, It is a real shame that the final act should end in a messy fizzle rather than a bang.
For all it's tense and gripping build up, Baskin fails to deliver more than a few shocks and drawn out gore scenes. This was well thought out and carefully crafted debut by the Turkish director Can Evrenol but ultimately wanders off course and misses too many opportunities during the key moments of what should have been an epic finale.