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.