SHOCK talks to the director of the nightmarish new Turkish horror film BASKIN.
From the moments the lights went up in the theater at the 2105 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) screening of filmmaker Can Evrenol’s malevolent Turkish horror movie BASKIN, this writer knew the picture would endure.
You can read my post-screening review HERE.
BASKIN is indeed an uncanny work, familiar in that there are clear rhythmic influences from other films woven into its mad fabric, but alien in the sense that the movie is unknowable. It sucks the viewer into a dank, wet hole from hell and bastes you in its perversity and yet, it’s a beautiful picture, exotic and ritualistic.
We often mention that select genre movies – the best ones, in my opinions – play like nightmares but BASKIN is one of the first that I’ve seen in which that sentiment is true of the entire production. It’s a feverish, unpleasant and masochistic experience and yet so abstract, so beamed from another plane of reality…
When the film is over, one isn’t even sure if they’ve seen a film at all. Rather they’ve lived somewhere. A place they’re rather pleased to leave.
In a SHOCK exclusive, we interviewed director Evrenol about BASKIN (itself an expansion of his equally perverse short film) and mused on his many influences and the surprising way in which festivals and fans around the world have embraced its vulgar charms.
And while the movie has opened in many places already (and made at least two of our writers’ Best of 2015 lists because of this), American viewers won’t see BASKIN on screen until later this year.
Consider this interview some wetness for your impending whistle…
SHOCK: Was it always your attention to make a feature from the short?
EVRENOL: Yes, it was my intention to make a feature, in every short film I made : )
SHOCK: Ive heard some criticize that the vulgarity of the men in the diner in the opening turns them off the characters can you speak on that?
EVRENOL: I like that. It’s a bit like, bad guys against evil. What’s wrong with that? I love the baddies in CLIFFHANGER for example. I can watch them as main characters all day long. But my intention wasn’t quite that. I wanted the main characters in BASKIN to be heroes and anti-heroes at the same time. Not black or white, but like real life cops. That’s more interesting to me.
SHOCK: The moment when the movie hooked me was in the police van, just before the nightmare begins; a Turkish pop song plays and you let the entire sequence roll on you really get the camaraderie of the men what is the song and can you talk about that scene and your choices in the edit?
EVRENOL: The song is “Dere Boyu Kavaklar” which is public domain. We couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. In Turkey especially, Baris Mancos version of it is a huge classic. Our version was recorded by our composer JF (Ulas Pakkan), and sung by Mert Canka who is mainly an awesome reggae guy. That scene was on the very first day of our 28-night shooting schedule. I wanted start our shooting journey with a bang. A crowd warmer for the whole cast and crew.
I love mood and genre shifts in any kind of movie. It’s a pervert scene. It engages the audience with the main characters, in a totally opposite way than how the film begins. It forces the audience to have fun these “rude” characters. In that sense it is a pervert scene.
At the end of that scene the framing is upside down. It was a mistake in the editing room but I loved it and left it that way. For me it is a symbol that, while they have fun and laughs, their van has crossed to The Twilight Zone.
SHOCK: The frogs. They remind me of the frog used in the British film PSYCHOMANIA, another film about crossing over. Any connection? And if not why frogs?
EVRENOL: The frogs are there because they symbol the doom that is approaching. Frogs are doom-bringers in mythology. In a way they are the manifestation of the arrival of Baskin’s villain.
SHOCK: There is a distinct Lucio Fulci feel to the picture once they enter the house
EVRENOL: Yes. Fulci is one of the main reasons I was inspired to be a filmmaker. Right after I discovered “b-movies”, Fulci became this mysterious mad icon for me. Not like Cronenberg or Lynch, I had a different kind of fascination with Fulci. Was he a lazy talented artist? Or was he a lucky madman? Genius or deranged? I can’t be sure. When I was 10-15, after watching a movie, I would grab my G.I. JOE action figures and make them act a similar story. Sometimes a James Bond story, sometimes a variation of BLOODSPORT or AMERICAN NINJA. The stories I would play with my action figures would be much gorier and crazier than the films. I would cross over the limits in the movies and mesh up genres and everything. That exactly seemed like what Fulci was doing. When I watched Fulci films it was like I was watching the craziest childhood imaginings of mine. That’s precious.
SHOCK: The sound design of BASKIN is so important ever gush is sickening and loud can you talk about your choices to amplify every wet, nasty sound?
EVRENOL: Nuri Bilge Ceylan says, no matter what camera you use, make sure the sound of your film is convincing. I think that’s so true. One of the most prestigious film magazines in the world is titled “Sight&Sound”. Sound tricks you one hundred percent. Almost. Where as sight is limited in a box in front of you, and its 2 dimensional. So yes, I paid extra attention to sound, as much as I could. I went over each and every little sound bite, driving my sound designer crazy at times.
SHOCK: The character of Father is your greatest special effect;how did you find Mehmet Abi and can you talk about your relationship?
EVRENOL: Oh he is a unique soul. I say he can very well be the new Michael Berryman. He’s that cool. I’m expecting Disney to call me any day now to ask for Mehmet in the new Star Wars movie! We recently had a painting exhibition for him in one of the coolest art galleries in Istanbul, Bant Mag.
Here’s my intro in the artbook:
I found Mehmet Abis headshot while randomly going through archives of a cast agency. I was just looking for a creepy looking extra, for my short film, Baskin (2013). I noticed him right away when I arrived at the set. He was the center of attention. Yet everybody was looking at him from a distance. I went straight to him, casually introduced myself, and shook his hand.
So we met. Turns out that, hes a car park attendant. No acting experience. He just enrolled at a cast agency 10 years ago, waiting ever since. We had a great time at the set. Shortly after, this time I worked with him in a music video. Here I noticed he wasnt only about a rare physical appearance, but he had the talent and desire to act as well.
When it was time for the feature film, Baskin, I had this crazy idea of Mehmet Abi playing the role of the crazy villain character, The Father. I wrote the character with him in mind. But it was obviously a huge gamble to give this most important role of my first feature film to a non-actor. I rolled the dice and sent him the script. Mehmet Abi told me that he would read the script during the religious holiday, while he visits his hometown Samsun.
A couple days later he sent me, on my phone, one of the paintings exhibited in this book. I was flabbergasted. I loved it. I asked for more, and he painted some more. Soon after seeing these amazing paintings I said thats it, this is a much more special case than I thought…
To prepare him for his character, I asked him to watch such films as Apocalypse Now, Hellraiser and Zeki Demirkubuz films. He loved them all. His feedback to me was pretty, deep and poignant. I was touched. There and then, I trusted that we had a new Michael Berryman at hand!
Today, whenever we are at a festival Q&A, it is my great pleasure to hear Mehmet Abi talk about Baskin…
SHOCK: Are you surprised by the love and response youve been getting? Any plans for a sequel?
EVRENOL: I am really enjoying the journey of BASKIN, yes. I was hoping for a more arthouse-horror journey. But since the day it was picked for Midnight Madness, and not Vanguard at TIFF, it is repeatedly hailed as a gory horror movie above else. I embrace that. It worked a lot for us. It made the film very famous indeed. But I also love it as a different kind of arthouse film. I hope people see it both ways.