When Arda (Görkem Kasal) was a young boy, he had the strangest dream. It was more than a dream, it was a nightmare, where he woke up from a troubled sleep in his bedroom and heard strange noises emanating from his parents' bedroom. He got out of bed and approached the door, when the noises stopped and he noticed in the living room that the television was on, but not tuned in, displaying static, and as he went over he realised something was watching him from the doorway of his room. He ran over to his parents' door and screamed for help, but it was locked and there was a claw-like, bloody hand reaching out for him... But that was all a dream, after all. Wasn't it?
Director Can Evrenol had been making short films for a few years when he decided to expand one of them into his debut feature, at the encouragement of some fans and professionals who felt there was much promise in it. Baskin was the result, and though in the twenty-first century horror was getting a harder time from audiences than ever, despite its upswing in popularity, this was well-received in enough places to prompt many aficionados of the more outré shockers to check it out, and by and large they were not disappointed. Don't try to sell it to the mainstream horror fan, would seem to be the message of its regard, this was for the more seasoned appreciator of the genre.
Baskin was that rare thing, a Turkish horror movie, which given how notorious their nation's cinema had grown among cult movie buffs with its seemingly-endless parade of rip-offs, all of them unauthorised, must have led hearts to sink across the world. But give this one a chance, for while it certainly wore its influences on its sleeve, it was very much its own project; if anything, it was one of the most exquisitely photographed chillers of its era, every frame a picture worth hanging on the walls of an art gallery. That many of those frames were somewhat unorthodox, and indeed rather revolting, indicated a gallery was perhaps not the best place for it - maybe somewhere near a Chapman Brothers exhibition.
There had obviously been a lot of thought and care put into how this would look, and the visual effects were used sparingly but strikingly: there were no computer graphics-based monsters to be seen here, everything about the enemy was realised with physical makeup and costuming. But who were the enemy? They didn't show up until the last half, as the first was concerned with an incremental build-up of dread which centred around what Arda does currently in his job as a policeman. Now, seeing what happens to him and his colleagues may have had you believing Evrenol had a genuine grudge against the cops, but according to the man himself this was more about laying siege to the sense of family that being in a high-pressure job can engender, and placing that under violent threat.
To say too much would spoil the film's surprises, but suffice to say this was a story that took place entirely at night: the sun didn't go down at the beginning, and it assuredly did not rise at the end, indeed you could believe in this three o'clock in the morning world that the sun would never rise again, it was too scared. But we are introduced to the group of police when they are sitting about a roadside café talking about sex, one of them doing so extremely boorishly, and after he gets into a scuffle with a staff member they realise one of their number has disappeared. It's OK, he was just in the bathroom: throwing up and screaming at his reflection in the mirror, another indication events are about to take an unfortunate turn. That this ends up with an encounter with a cosmic cult somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker is not saying too much, yet with a tricksy structure and those luminous images, Baskin may not have been the most coherent horror flick around, but it was well worth investigating for those interested in straying from the path of the usual fare. John Carpenter-ish music by Ulas Pakkan.
[The Severin Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific, and as extras has a making of featurette, the original short film, and the trailer.]