Baskin: Hell Lives within Us
I watched the trailer for Can Evrenol’s Baskin on a whim a week ago and quickly decided that this was a must-see for me—to say it looked INSANE would be an understatement. So, when I came across it on VOD, I thought to myself, “Hey, you’re home sick from work. Treat yourself.” I was equal parts thrilled and angry with this decision. Baskin in a nutshell: Five cops are called out to an abandoned police station to serve as backup, but quickly find themselves in a literal downward spiral into hell.
First, let’s talk about what I did like. Everyone that worked on visuals, sound, and score deserves a standing ovation. The cinematography is beautiful. Even simple shots, like the police van parked on a deserted road, are as eye-catching as the more grotesque surreal scenes—masterfully done. The score, reminiscent of 80s synth, also does a great job of building tension and drawing out the dread. The demon (and I’m using the term “demon” loosely) designs are fantastic and made me think of what you’d get if Guillermo Del Toro and Clive Barker collaborated on a series of illustrations. Some are horrifying (the worshippers), while others are more intriguing in their appearance and costuming.
Now, onto some things I didn’t care for. There’s a lot of great set-up in this film, but there’s almost no payoff. For example, Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is haunted by a recurring childhood nightmare. This leads to a lot of interesting philosophical and metaphysical discussions between Arda and his superior, but the problem is they don’t go anywhere, nor do they act as foreshadowing of the tortures that lie ahead. We never get to know most of the team, so when their eyes are gouged out or forced into barbaric sex acts, we look away from the sheer grossness of it rather than feeling horrified for someone we’ve spent time getting to know. It’s unfortunate because I think if Evrenol had spent more time creating nuanced, realistic characters they would have traversed their one-dimensional skins and the horror would have had more of an impact.
Lastly, and this is the part that truly rubbed me the wrong way, the ending felt like a big middle finger to the audience. [WARNING! SPOILERS ARE A COMIN’!]. Earlier in the movie a man wanders out into the road and gets creamed by the police van, thus resulting in a wrecked vehicle. At the end of the film, we see Arda leaving the bowels of hell in a state of victorious lunacy, only to be hit by the police van in one of the most pointless twists I have ever witnessed in a film.
Now, I’m not opposed to twists when they actually work within the context of the narrative and serve as an honest to god gut-punch. But when it feels like the director or the writers just thought it would be totally cool to throw one in there, I start feeling insulted. And in case I wasn’t clear, the guy they hit with the van in the first act of the film is Arda, which makes zero sense and left me with a terrible taste in my already Nyquil-drenched mouth.
Overall, I wanted to like this film more, but its muddled narrative and sketchy character development kept me on the sidelines. However, that’s not to say I won’t come back for Evrenol’s next film. There are enough awesome concepts packed away in here that it held my interest to some degree, and the stylized visuals set to a very cool score were effective in the right moments.