by Hope Madden
“Hell is not a place you see. You carry Hell with you at all times.”
Cheery stuff, that! If you’ve ever wondered what hell might look like, first time feature director Can Evrenol has some ideas to share. They are vivid. You’ll swear they even have an odor.
Evrenol’s Baskin is a loose, dreamily structured descent into that netherworld in the company of a 5-man Turkish police unit. (Baskin is Turkish for “police raid.”) The serpentine sequencing of events evokes a dream logic that gives the film an inescapable atmosphere of dread, creepily underscored by its urgent synth score.
We are trapped along with this group of somewhat detestable, somewhat sympathetic men as they respond to a call for backup in an “off the map” nearby area. What they find is deeply disturbing.
Unless you really like frogs. If so, then – hooray! Frogs!
The rest of it, though? Horrifying.
Evrenol’s imagery is morbidly amazing. Much of it only glimpsed, most of it left unarticulated, but all of it becomes that much more disturbing for its lack of clarity.
The cast is uniformly solid with the exception of Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who may leave you speechless. The director has taken to calling him the new Michael Berryman – a name genre fans will recall as the haunting, hulking, hairless menace in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes and their nightmares.
Babi’s remarkable presence authenticates the hellscape of these characters’ descent. Evrenol’s imaginative set design and wise lighting choices envelope Cerrahoglu, his writhing followers, and his victims in a bloody horror like little else in cinema.
There are moments when Baskin feels like a classier, more stylishly made Nightbreed, but there’s no camp factor here. Just a surreal exploration of the corruptibility of the human soul, and its final destination.
Baskin may infuriate viewers looking for a tidy package, and it may underwhelm gorehounds intrigued by reports of audience walk outs. Be that as it may, the film represents a vital new voice in the genre (Evrenol), not to mention a potentially iconic new face in horror and bad dreams (Cerrahoglu).