Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Its plot is more cleverly structured than is at first apparent, and although it seems to lose its way part way through, there's always something going on upstairs."

To genre outsiders, horror films often look incredibly formulaic, and indeed, a lot of them follow the same patterns. Then every now and again something comes out of left field and turns the genre on its head. Baskin isn't the most accomplished film you're likely to see this year but in terms of originality it has a lot to offer, and despite the limitations enforced by its low budget it incorporates some very impressive work.

Writing team Ogulcan Eren Akay and Can Evrenol are both newcomers to features and this shows in the uncertain pacing, with central scenes that drag on far longer than they should, but other aspects of the script deliver far more than anyone had a right to expect. The film opens with cracking dialogue as a group of cops sit around a table chatting about life, work, and sexual experiences with animals. There are similarities to Quentin Tarantino's work in Reservoir Dogs, but this is more naturalistic and less sanitised. It also makes deft contributions to the later plot and helps the viewer develop an attachment to the central characters, despite cruel streaks which are quickly revealed - so when things start to go wrong, we feel for them, even if we never get to know most of them in depth as individuals.

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With thinly disguised political commentary alongside its playful critique of masculine values, Baskin makes a bold contribution to Turkish cinematic discourse, and for all the lurid sex and gory violence it involves (none of which, strictly speaking, is gratuitous), it's a film whose primary concern is with morality and the life of the mind. Ongoing streaks of dark comedy satirise both traditional and New Age spirituality, whilst discussions of damnation recall Hellraiser. A young officer, Arda (Gorkem Kasal), talks about dreams, about waking covered in sweat only to realise that he's still dreaming, but the film manages to avoid going down the usual rabbit holes associated with this. Its plot is more cleverly structured than is at first apparent, and although it seems to lose its way part way through, there's always something going on upstairs.

Unable to find professional actors or extras willing to take on some of the more extreme roles in the film, director Evrenol brought in LGBTT activists, who appear masked, chained and covered in fake blood, their bodies become Dantean landscapes. Another non-professional, Mehmet Cerrahoglu (a parking attendant by trade) plays Baba, Arda's chief antagonist, his genuinely unusual appearance doing away with much of the need for make-up and subtly changing the tone of the film. Forced to acknowledge his personhood in a way that doesn't apply to the artificially altered, the viewer is drawn to recognise the ethos he represents as an alternative perspective rather than simple monstrousness, and this mirrors Arda's own troubled journey.

The final touch that elevates Baskin is Ulas Pakkan's Goblin-like soundtrack, which situates it in a rich tradition of work creating elegant imagery out of the grotesque. This is certainly not a film for everyone but its boldness and imagination deserve credit and the team behind it are well worth keeping an eye on.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2016
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A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell after stumbling upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.
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Director: Can Evrenol

Writer: Ogulcan Eren Akay, Can Evrenol

Starring: Muharrem Bayrak, Mehmet Akif Budak, Fadik Bülbül, Derin Cankaya, Mehmet Cerrahoglu

Year: 2015

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Turkey, US

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