Category Archives: Horror Film Reviews

Baskin Film Review

"Baskin" Property of Film Colony, Mo Film, XYZ Films

“Baskin” Property of Film Colony, Mo Film, XYZ Films

I saw the Turkish horror film “Baskin” a few months ago at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, but after traveling to Turkey I feel as though I understand the political context behind the film a bit better.

Baskin is a horror film by first time filmmaker Can Evrenol and is based on his 2013 short film by the same name.  The film is a surreal nightmare of hellish images in a gritty, bloody landscape and is a real treat for any one who is a fan of Hellraiser, HP Lovecraft and Nightmare on Elm Street – so, that would definitely be me!

The plot centers around a group of police officers at a restaurant who receive a distress call from a small town with a strange reputation.  Their van gets into an accident when an officer has a vision of a bloody figure and drives the van into a ditch.  Stranded, the officers continue on to the town where they come across an abandoned warehouse.  What they discover is a labyrinth of unthinkable horrors, and each of them is subjected to various nightmarish scenarios.  They soon realize they are trapped in Hell, and this version of Hell is run by a cannibalistic cult led by a super creepy, bald leader named The Father.

The film cuts back and forth between the police officers at the restaurant to the terror they now face, blurring the lines between reality as we are never quite sure which bizarre world is real.  While the story line isn’t the strongest, one can fully appreciate the film as an art house horror, with Dario Argento being an obvious influence.  The art direction and FX are pretty impressive for an independent film, with extensive torture set pieces and bloody gore dripping from every corner of the warehouse.  The cinematography is also reminiscent of Italian horror, highly stylized with sharp contrasts and rich blacks and reds.

The star of the show though is Mehmet Cerrahoglu who plays The Father.  During the Q&A at TIFF, we learned that this was the first time Mehmet had acted, and needless to say he’s found his calling.  His unique look and way of speaking makes him so engaging as the leader of the cult, and despite his short height, his presence is commanding and he steals every scene.

The political connotations behind the main characters make this film unique as well.  Subjecting the cops to such torture can for sure be seen as a commentary on the long history of police brutality in Turkey.  The police forces in Turkey have often been criticized for their excessive use of physical force, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons on peaceful protestors.  The public response culminated to a police brutality protest in 2013, which was when the short was released.

“Baskin” isn’t out to scare you, the film just wants to give you a little taste of hell.  The visuals are so grotesquely beautiful though that you won’t want to look away, until it’s too late.

Did you see Baskin?  Let me know what you think!

Directed by Can Evrenol
Released: 2015
Starring: Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu

Review: The Babadook

The Babadook Movie Review

The Babadook Movie Review

Moody, beautifully shot with a haunting, ominous soundtrack, The Babadook slowly reels you in and gets under your skin. The feature debut of Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent, The Babadook tells the tale of a widowed single mom Amelia (Essie Davis) her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) and the tragedy that has haunted their family. One fateful night when the husband was driving pregnant Amelia to the hospital, their car was involved in a fatal accident that left her newborn son fatherless. Ever since then, she has been unable to deal with her grief, refusing to celebrate Sam’s birthday, and living a very sheltered life. Needless to say, Sam grew up to be a bit of a odd child, so when he reads the darkly disturbing The Babadook storybook and claims to see monsters, this doesn’t strike his mother as strange at first. However, as he continues to persist that he is telling the truth and his behavior becomes more erratic, Amelia starts to believe that there might be something more to the book than just a creepy story.

Essie Davis anchors the film with her portrayal of Amelia, playing the character with a balanced intensity that starts off as a fragile and mourning widow who is gradually driven to a sleep deprived state on the brink of madness. Noah Wiseman lets loose as the unhinged kid, making us question whether he is possessed or just a real brat. The stage for their performance is an overly gloomy, German impressionistic palette inspired house, almost humorous in it’s obvious attempt to be as dark and creepy as possible.

*spoiler alert* The theme of grief is an interesting monster analogy, threatening the family unit as Amelia slowly loses grip on reality. The longer she denies the existence of the Babadook – a monstrous version of her dead husband – the stronger the Babadook becomes. He represents her suppressed grief and until she deals with what she is repressing, it continues to grow and come back to haunt her in a terrifying form.*end of spoiler*

There was quite the hype surrounding The Babadook after it premiered at the end of 2014 with William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist being quoted as saying “I’ve never seen a film more terrifying than The Babadook”. This is quite the statement coming from the man who made the “scariest movie of all time”, and having read that I have to say I was disappointed. While I was at first drawn into the story by the strong performances and elegant cinematography, the grieving monster became such an obvious connection early on that The Babadook no longer felt like a threat. The tensions shift throughout the film, first the child terrorizing the mother than the mother terrorizing the child. This made the film feel a bit disjointed at times, the audience losing interest as their sympathies shift.

While The Babadook is a fun ride through a fantastical reality of nightmares and demons, it nonetheless wraps up a bit too neatly, choosing to end on a childlike note instead of really opening the door to hell.

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

Released 2014. Available on DVD as of April 2015

Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney and Barbara West

Here’s my attempt at some Babadook art – what do you think your greatest fear would look like?

The Babadook

The Babadook

Review: It Follows

Property of Northern Lights Films

Property of Northern Lights Films

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell

Released: 2014

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto

This past weekend It Follows opened to a wider theatrical release and I could not be more thrilled. I attended the premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and this film was by far my favourite from the Midnight Madness program.   During the Q&A the director said that the inspiration behind the film was based on a recurring nightmare he’d had as a kid, when he was being slowly and incessantly followed by something that looked like different people. This sense of dread and unshakeable fear is what drives It Follows and makes it one of the more successful and genuinely scary horror films I have seen in a long time. Just ask my boyfriend, whom I was gripping so tightly I nearly strangled him with his shirt.
The film centers around Jay, a 19-year-old teen from Detroit with a chip on her shoulder. One evening after having sex with her new boyfriend in the back of his car, he suddenly knocks her out and she wakes up tied to a chair.  He reveals to her that he has been infected with a curse that is passed along through sexual contact. The curse tags you with an evil entity that presents itself in various forms and stalks you to your death, unless you pass it along.  However, even if you give someone else this demonic STD, if the new victim falls to their fate, the curse reverts to you. What “follows” is an unrelenting horror movie, relying on genuine scares and creepy imagery that will haunt you long after the credits roll. The director wanted the film to feel timeless so while the dreamy, synth score and stylized art direction pay homage to ’70s and ’80s horror, characters use e-books and other modern elements, immersing the audience into a surreal nightmare.
The STD analogy is a brilliant one, evolving the bourgeois notion of sexuality to a more relevant monstrosity for our generation.  Newcomer Maika Monroe is a breath of fresh air and also starred in the Midnight Madness closer The Guest. She portrays Jay as a confident, sexually active woman and though we fear for her, she never feels victimized or punished. If one were to ask themselves “what would you do in this situation” what makes It Follows so effectively freaky is that there is no obvious answer, and we have to trust her to survive and pull us through to the end.
It Follows pushes the horror genre in a new direction by bending the rules and modernizing the monster of sexuality.  If you’re a horror movie fan – it’s a must see, and don’t forget to pass it on…

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