A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.
March 25, 2016
Can Evrenol, Ogulcan Eren Akay, Cem Ozuduru, Ercin Sadikoglu
Gorkem Kasal as Arda
Muharrem Bayrak as Yavuz
Ergun Kuyucu as Remzi
Another AFI Fest-screened flick in their “Midnight” section, Baskin is a Turkish horror film. To once again borrow one of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart’s catchphrases in the classic show, Get Smart, “Missed it by that much.” But sadly, even that phrase doesn’t quite capture the reality of Baskin’s shortcomings. For you see, it missed it by far more than just much.
The Turkish term “baskin” has several possible translations. The most intriguing and appropriate for the film: “descent” or “raid” or “sudden attack”. Take your pick, for they all apply.
Five police officers are taking an eating/drinking break at a mom-n-pop restaurant in rural Turkey. They bully their waiter and talk about past experiences with women. One of them is not feeling well, and when he goes to the bathroom, he finds a frog in the soapdish. Once they return to their duties, they are called to a mysterious and remote village which is apparently renowned as a place where strange things happen. On the way, they wreck their police van and are directed to an old abandoned police station — where they find a patrol car and deep within the building — another police officer slamming his head into a wall. No other officers are to be found. The police descend into the bowels of this building, where they find an entire community of cannibalistic cult members.
There are plenty of positives which deserve recognition in Baskin. The lighting is fantastic (in color, very reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Take a look at some of the photos we are sharing with the article — those deep blues with just touches of red — are all throughout the film and they never get old. I loved the look of this picture. The camera-work is equally as effective — particularly in the shot of the police van speeding down the lonely highway at night — the camera is flipped upside down, no doubt to suggest that things for these five police officers are about to be turned on their head.
The actors are all top-notch, with a special call-out to Gorkem Kasal, playing Arda, the rookie in the group (whom we see as a little boy in a brief and very scary prologue — which we’ll revisit later in the picture). I never doubted any of this ensemble’s line deliveries, character actions or reactions. A cast completely deserving of kudos.
As for makeup and special effects, this is clearly where the filmmakers placed a lot of their faith as well as budget. This is a very bloody film, and there was never a moment where I didn’t believe in the prowess of the effects crew. As the cops go deeper and deeper into the “Temple of Doom” (see below), you’ll see all kinds of gory and gross goodies!
But here we are. We’ve arrived at the point where, just like the film — all good things begin to crumble away, making us forget the many positives as we descend into a cesspool of bad things.
Once the cops venture into this foreboding and abandoned building, the film starts to go off into a terribly wrong direction. It becomes a far more gory and juicy version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That’s all fine and good as far as the gross-out factor, and as I said above, it’s expertly done work. But…
It’s the story which takes a very miscalculated step. Baskin is yet another prime example of a film which intrigued me and sucked me in right from the get-go. I’m reminded of this year’s festival darling The Abandoned (formerly The Confines — check out our review here). The filmmakers (from both films) created an oppressive and intriguing atmosphere, introduced us to interesting characters and absolutely got us on board to enjoy the film and its very pronounced and emotional mystery. Then, the reveals start to tumble out, fast and furious. And well into the film’s running time, there’s that heartbreaking stumble. As in The Confines, it was as if I were a runner — halfway though completion of a marathon — enjoying the journey — when I hit the oft-discussed “wall”. But rather than getting back up, some runners may experience defeat — there’s no getting back in the race after hitting that painful “wall”. In the case of Baskin, once the police officers plunge into the hellish nether-regions of this abandoned building, I shut down. And with all of the adrenaline already pumping through my veins at that point, you could imagine my disappointment. Sigh.
So much leading up to these problems was brilliant. They were terrifying. Arda and his co-workers connect as friends as they drive to their fates. In this section there are some very genuine and scream-out-loud “boo”moments.
The back and forth on the timeline keeps you on your toes, but also keeps you invested in what’s happening. “Tell me more! Show me more!”, you’ll be crying inside. But again, soon after we move into the actual hell in the lower levels of the filthy police station, you’ll be crying for a very different reason.
Visually beautiful with a fascinating set-up and first two acts — Baskin couldn’t keep it together. And for that reason, it can’t even come close to a top rating. Had it remained on the same trajectory as the beginning, and found something more interesting in that basement, a different (and higher) score may have been in order.
In 2013, a proof of concept short film, also called Baskin, was released. I’d be interested to see what the original story contained and if it focused on the meta-physical (and far more intriguing) aspect which the feature so wonderfully introduced only to throw away.
Baskin held its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and has been making its rounds on the festival circuit ever since. No information yet on a wider theatrical release or availability on DVD/VOD.