★★★ / ★★★★
Right from the opening sequence of the impressive Turkish picture “Baskin,” directed by Can Evrenol, we get the feeling we are in the hands of a filmmaker who knows how to helm a horror film. We are placed in a child’s bedroom when the occupant (Berat Efe Parlar) is at his most vulnerable: waking up from a nightmare and then hearing strange noises from his parents’ bedroom. The lighting is soft but controlled, the camera is deliberate in never going past the child’s height so the audience sees the action from his perspective, and there is an eerie, mysterious quiet as the boy moves from his bed and onto the hallway. We watch in careful anticipation.
There tends to be a hypnotic flow between scenes. For example, between the first scene described above and the second scene that takes place in a restaurant, the aforementioned techniques are employed: pale lighting, child’s eye view of the images, and the camera slithers through the near silence. We watch carefully as the camera rests on specific images like that of a hooded figure holding a pail, a slab of meat being cut and cooked, how the server’s face is not being shown quite deliberately. We get a sneaky feeling something big is just about to happen; Alfred Hitchcock’s influence is palpable.
Surrealistic elements are employed eventually but they do not go overboard to the point where the story becomes so muddled, we lose interest in the material since any random thing can happen. Credit to the four writers—Ogulcan Even Akay, Can Evrenol, Cem Ozuduru, and Ercin Sadikoglu—for digging into the dark corners of their imaginations and providing truly horrific imagery. There were numerous instances where I caught my mouth agape due to the sheer shock provided by certain clever turn of events. Mainstream American movies will never get away with half of what is shown here. Gorehounds will likely to be satisfied.
Its greatest potential, but ultimately not fully realized, is its mythos. I found the material refreshing exactly because the stamp of the Turkish culture can be found in every second, every beat, every pause, and moments in between. For instance, when the main character, a rookie cop named Arda (Gorkem Kasal), talks about his nightmares, how he got his name, and a few traumatizing memories, the material captivates. I was reminded of my own Filipino culture and how certain superstitions relating to the supernatural tend to contribute in shaping our identities despite the fact that we may not even believe in them. It is in our bones, our blood, our very beings—clearly this movie could not have made by the French, the Argentines, the Chinese, or anyone else because the fears are, in a way, specific to the story’s Turkish prism.
However, the film falls short of excellence because it delivers a rather uninspired ending—one that I’ve seen too many times from generic, forgettable, frustratingly bad horror pictures. With such a high level of imagination and confident execution, “Baskin” ought to have ended on a different note—whether it be odd, perplexing, or even employing a non-ending might have worked quite effectively here, a technique that is extremely difficult to pull off, one that must be earned from the beginning right up to that moment where we fall hook, line, and sinker.
And yet despite this shortcoming, “Baskin” is absolutely worth seeing, particularly by those who crave to see something a little bit different, strange, and bold. I wish horror world cinema would get appropriate world of mouth when warranted because it is about time western audiences, especially aspiring filmmakers, get out of the rut of delivering standard fares.