Can Evrenol’s “BASKIN” (2015)

U.S. poster for BASKIN (2015)

There are some movies that will never make complete sense no matter how many times you watch them. It doesn’t stop you from liking them. For me, BASKIN is one of those films. It’s weird, it’s flawed and borrows heavily from other films, but it burrows into your head and won’t leave. When you consider this is Turkish director/co-writer Can Evrenol’s first feature film, and the first film for some of the cast, what works begins to loom larger than what doesn’t fit.

Five cops on a routine night patrol get a call for backup from another unit in a nearby remote town. On the way, they hit someone who jumps in front of their van and crash into a small pond. Things begin to get strange when there is no sign of the person they hit. They find an abandoned patrol car with its lights on in front of an old building. Inside, they find one lone officer, dazed and bleeding. Going further, they find themselves in the middle of a hellish scene of torture and mutilation. People are being held in cages and chains. Body parts hang from the ceiling. Butchers are preparing mutilated parts for who knows what. Strange drawings of monsters and demons are on the walls. This is not going to be your typical disturbance call.

Before they can get their bearings and properly react, they are overwhelmed and taken prisoner by members of an evil cult led by eerie, enigmatic Baba, or Father. At this point, the film becomes a bizarre dream hallucination. Why is this happening? Are these people really a cult or demons from Hell? The movie ends without giving any real answers. When you rewatch and pay close attention, some things begin to stick out that make sense later, but you will still be left with questions. Sometimes films that leave too many questions frustrate the audience to the point of detachment. I think there is enough in BASKIN to keep the audience connected.

BASKIN, or “Raid,” is filled with elements from films like HELLRAISER and EVENT HORIZON. The visuals stray into torture porn. The film’s vagueness in the second half hurt and help this aspect. Not really understanding what is going on makes the torture scenes more disturbing. But it also seems to rob the film of some of its effectiveness. Just a little more explanation would have gone a long way.

BASKIN gets it right with its characters, especially in the first half of the film. The interaction between the five cops feels relaxed and authentic. Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is a rookie hanging out with his guardian Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu),  Yavuz (Muharrem Bayrak), Apo (Fatih Dokgöz) and Sabo (Sabahattin Yakut.) They spend the first part of the film talking and joking in a small diner. Their stories of gambling, prostitutes and their unprovoked violence against the diner owner’s son suggest they are probably not the best cops. But they seem to genuinely have each other’s backs. As the film progresses, we see that the five are slipping into a reality that is quietly changing around them.

The architect of that reality is Baba, played by Mehmet Cerrahoglu. Cerrahoglu, who had never acted before this movie, is the centerpiece. It isn’t just his unique look but his commanding and creepy, intimate portrayal of the cult leader that completely unnerved me. He is repulsive and magnetic at the same time. I only wish the character had been developed more.

BASKIN’s main flaw is that the first half of the film is stronger and more fleshed out than the second half, which felt uneven and rushed. I wish there had been more to this film because I really liked it. I think Evrenol is a filmmaker to pay attention to and I hope he continues to develop his own voice and step out of the shadows of his influences.