Advance Review: BASKIN


Baskin review.

An advance review of BASKIN

BASKIN is a genuinely ugly motion picture. Ugly and beautiful. And weird and wonderfully unpleasant. In fact, it’s been a very long time since I was so profoundly revolted and exhilarated in equal measures by any feature length horror film. The experience that vaguely mirrors it might be the first time I saw HELLRAISER or Zulawski’s POSSESSION or Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. These were films that hit me hard as a horror-loving youth unprepared for their depths of their extremity, their freefalls into stylized grotesquerie that both dazzled and horrified. But unlike those landmark doses of strange, phantasmagorical cinema, BASKIN isn’t pretty or slickly designed. Rather it’s messy, wet, freakish and raw and dedicated to finding a kind of transcendence through transgression.

The film, which had its world premiere earlier this month at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, is the first feature from Turkish director Can Evrenol, an expansion of his well-received short film. It tells the grisly tale of five police officers, chained to the night shift, taking a break from the ennui of their patrols to grab a bite, a drink and few laughs at a local eatery. There, the men wallow in repellently macho tales of deviant sex and empty bravado, all save for the youngest officer, who soaks it all in with a smile. It’s to Evrenol’s credit that for all their behavior, his characters show just enough humanity and camaraderie for us to genuinely care about them, all the better for us to fear for their safety in the films grisly final act. But more on that later…

After a gratuitously hostile encounter with a hapless waiter (and after one of their flock has a bizarre mini-meltdown in the bathroom), the lads jump back in their van, listen to Turkish trip-hop (an oddly charming sequence that recalls a grimier version of the “Tiny Dancer” scene in ALMOST FAMOUS) and make the most out of their grinding graveyard beat. When an urgent call for back-up screeches over the CB, the cops frantically shift gears and promptly run over what they think might be a man and, in turn, crash their vehicle. Dazed, confused and alarmed by a swelling mass of slimy frogs that inexplicably appear all around them, the men head to their destination on foot. Said destination turns out to be a crumbling, labyrinthine manor that once entered become almost impossible to leave. Inside, unspeakable acts are unfolding: bodies writhe in bloody torment, masked fiends slither through rooms filled with mud, blood and feces, people scream in both agony and ecsatcy. And then, there’s “Father”…

To say more about what happens next would be to damage the sensuality of the film. As the cops go deeper and deeper into the bowels of the building, BASKIN becomes less concerned with and more focused on letting obscene imagery, nightmarish music, wildly stomach-churning sound design and hideously violent acts take center stage. It’s an immersive experience and one that Evrenol dives into with singular intent. And yet as vulgar as the film becomes, it never feels exploitative. What might become “torture porn” at the hands of a less cerebral filmmaker, is refined here to a high/low art; it’s an almost Bosch-ian portrait of a Hell as an orgy of ruined flesh, sexual perversion and sinister oration. We’ve seen Hell on screen before, but never as oddly practical and profoundly putrid as it’s illustrated here…

The director is an admitted fan of Italian horror and truly, BASKIN feels like a steroidal version of a vintage early 80’s Fulci film; not a rip-off or an homage by any stretch, but an heir to the same philosophies of filmmaking, the same desire to create an unrelenting, dreamscape of Grand Guignol and emotional response. No, BASKIN is not an homage. It’s not a send-up. It echoes its influence but is most assuredly its own thing. It’s something new. It’s fresh. It’s horrible and rapturous and atonal and odd and it’s one of the best horror films of the decade.

After its enthusiastic screening at TIFF’s rowdy Midnight Madness program, IFC Midnight quickly picked BASKIN up for distribution. SHOCK will keep you informed as to its impending release.