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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.28.16] Turkey horror

Writer/director Can Evrenol's Baskin, a full length feature expansion of his short film from a few years ago, emerged from its festival run last year as one of the most twisted visions of terror on the genre festival tour. The movie's trailer supported that assertion and I can report that Baskin is indeed a twisted, stomach churning and occasionally revolting bit of horror but as far as scares are concerned, they're largely few and far between.

The movie's first act focuses almost exclusively on a group of five on-duty cops. We catch up with the group while they're on dinner break talking sports, women and sexual conquests. The conversation is vulgar and a bit ugly, the kind of thing you expect to hear in a men's locker room. There is a sense that these cops have a shady moral compass and inhabit a grey area. They are just as likely to do good as they are to do bad. Beyond a general feeling of unease, we don't learn much about any of them but there's a nugget of hope that the movie will expand on these characters further.

Back on the road, the squad receives a call for backup and they make their way to an apparently abandoned house. The squad car parked out front marks this as the right spot so the group heads inside to investigate but they're completely unprepared for what they find: a gateway to hell. Or something equally terrifying.

It's a funhouse of horror and each room is more depraved than the next though the real terror unfolds over the movie's final 20 minutes when the surviving officers find themselves as unwilling participants in what appears to be a creepy black mass. It's not really clear what's going on but there are bodies writhing in a state somewhere between pleasure and pain, there are gruesome deaths and a ridiculously creepy priest/shaman/embodiment of evil who is, by far, the scariest part of the movie. He spews a bunch of mumbo jumbo that suggests there's some dark spiritual thing going on but it's poorly explained and doesn't make much sense.

By this point, the cops are so unlikable they seem deserving of whatever horror is about to befall them and the creepy priest dude is so effective that I started to think that maybe the movie was about to get interesting but alas, it's a red herring and it quickly becomes clear that nothing is going to be explained. It's twisted for the sake of being twisted but explanations? There are none and the twist ending doesn't make things any more interesting.

Baskin has some excellent features, namely the cinematography from Alp Korfali which is beautifully dark and promises something lurking just beyond the edge of darkness, a feature which is used to great affect in the house of horror. There's also the excellent design of the movie – from the set design of the house to the make-up and practical effects inside, there's some excellent work on display from an obviously talented team but beyond the technical strengths, there's little to get excited about.

Aside from one or two scares and the tight pacing of the sacrificial ritual, the movie is all flash and no substance. There are snippets of something more interesting during the ritual but it's never explored and though there are hints at a mythology, it's not explored or explained in any meaningful way and feels like an amalgamation of interesting ideas for the sole purpose of grossing out the viewer. It works but doesn't leave a lasting effect.

Baskin is a great new entry into the shock horror sub-genre but those, like myself, who prefer their horror with a bit more depth and psychological bite will be largely unsatisfied.

Baskin is opens in NYC and is available on VOD March 25. It opens in LA April 1.

Recommended Release: Hellraiser

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