On the twenty-fourth day of Halloween, the Father gave to me: Baskin (Can Evrenol, 2015)
So the next few movies are part of mini-theme, loosely titled, Is This Real or Not? (I was debating adding a the subtitle Because I Don’t Know But I’m Scared.) The movies under this category have serious undertones (or overtones, as in today’s movie) of subjectivity, and thrive off of the audience being unaware if what they are being shown is “real” or not. These movies tend to be psychologically complex, thematically rich, and occasionally really fucking confusing. But as long as you’re just here for the ride, these movies can be fun as hell to watch and explore.
Today’s entry is the only one of the mini-series that I would consider somewhat hard to follow along with: it’s pretty non-linear and doesn’t necessarily keep to any “rules.” That said, there’s enough of a narrative that you’re not totally bumbling around in a sea of images, but enough weirdness to keep it puzzling.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the first entry in Is This Real or Not?: hailing from Turkey, today’s film is Baskin, film that goes to Hell and back.
Yada yada yada, here’s the sitch:
A rural Turkish police unit responds to a call for backup in the town of Inceagac. With nothing else to do, the unit heads in, unaware of what awaits them. As the group journeys further into the woods, strange things begin to happen- including the ever-present road danger of naked people darting across traffic. After accidentally crashing their van into a lake, the crew finds the first squad’s car, parked in front of an abandoned building that apparently used to be a police station. Deciding to enter the building, the police unit attempts to find their missing colleagues. What they find serves to prove that there are indeed, more things in heaven and hell than in our mortal philosophy.
My other entries may be on the tame side
This, however, is not. Baskin is Holy Motors for horror movies, folks. That’s not an entirely accurate comparison, but roll with it
If you want something scary, and not like “ooh, I’’m creeped out hold me closer lol,” but rather you want something to Fuck You Up, this is it. This is Silent Hill meets Sixth Sense meets The Shining, all with a kind of Del Toro aesthetic. And yet, it is still entirely a beast of its own. Sometimes Baskin feels like a music video. Sometimes it feels like performance art. At other moments it feels very traditional, and yet at other moments, it is blindingly unique. I may not entirely understand Baskin, but I do know that I really enjoyed watching it.
get weird or get out
Critics of this film felt that Baskin was more visuals than it was narrative, and needed more of a backbone to carry it. This is a totally, 100% accurate critique. A lot of this movie is left to your interpretation, sometimes frustratingly so. But I liken it to watching Holy Motors. If you’ve never seen Holy Motors, I’d highly recommend you watch it. It’s a movie that legitimately no one really understands. It’s cinema for cinema’s sake, and it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had watching a movie. It’s utterly bizarre and makes zero sense, but to me that’s part of the allure! Once you step back from trying to impose a narrative and just go with the film, it’s fantastic.
That’s sort of how I feel about Baskin. It’s a beautiful, well-made film that values feeling, visuals, and evocation more than narrative. To be sure, there’s enough of a narrative that someone smarter than I am has probably cobbled together a coherent plot out of the film; it’s not totally random like Holy Motors is. But I think this is a movie that you just have to roll with. You can’t necessarily impose sense on it, you just gotta experience it. That can rightly frustrate people, and I totally get that Baskin it not everyone’s cup of tea.
This is a movie that forces you to think, that places the viewer in interchangeably subjective and objective environments, and without any warning. Baskin establishes several different “worlds” within the film, and forces them to collide and loop back on themselves with no real rhyme or reason.
I would have had a fucking field day with this movie as a student. My primary film teacher in college was really into the idea of films as a dream-space, the role of the eye, and shit like that. As such, I fucking dig this movie. The symbolism of the key, the keyhole, the notion of “doors”- it’s all delicious and ripe for some film student to dig into. (If you’re a film kid and want to write something academic on a horror movie, this would be SO GOOD. Send me what you think!)
On top of the themes, the artistry of the film itself is masterful. The lighting in Baskin is tight and precise, in a way that is almost theatrical in quality. Similarly, the composition of each scene- particularly in the dungeon with the Father- is delicious. I also found the soundtrack to be quite effective :it vacillates between dead silence and uneasy beats, both used to maximum effect.
Set and sound aside, the cinematography is what builds the terror in Baskin. Baskin utilizes close-ups to make the viewer uncomfortable, to imbue tension into simple actions. Who would have thought that a simple stepstool could be so horrifying? Baskin imparts deadly meaning into everyday objects and movements, and almost entirely with the camera alone.
This movie is fucking decadent with gore
But don’t let me try and tell you this is some super-cerebral arthouse circle-jerk: because it’s not. It’s beautifully crafted and non-linear, but it packs in horror and suspense right along with it. The gore is at times very traditional: you’ve got your cannibals hacking away at limbs, inhuman wailing etc. Yet at other times, the gore is drawn out and straight-up decadent in its presentation. There’s one scene in particular that I’m thinking about, which involves some intestines and a ve-e-ery slow villain. Some parts are truly hard to watch, simply because they are deliberately slow, when we as viewers are used to a frenzied hack-n-slash.
Warnings: Hoo boy. Sex stuff. Dubious sex stuff. Cannibalism. Simulated bestiality. Eye trauma. This movie is out there, so watch with caution if any of the above might bother you.
Do I understand this movie? I’m pleading the 5th.
Baskin has enough of a narrative to keep you sort of on-track, but the atmosphere and mood is what reigns in this movie, and it is stunning. It’s is a beautiful, lyrical, horrifying film, all in equal measure. It’s truly a mixed bag, but if you’re feeling feisty and looking for a movie that’s in a league of its own, try Baskin.
Or if you really liked Un Chien Andalou.
…Yeah, then you’ll probably love this movie.
Featured image source: http://www.splatsofblood.com/baskin-basks-blood-guts/baskin-poster/