Baskin was only the eighth Turkish film released in the United States when it opened in 2015.
As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Horror movies are a worldwide phenomenon. There have been giallos from Italy and Hammer Films from Britain, while France seems to have a new horror film movement every few years. Turkey, on the other hand, is not known for its horror movies. In fact, very few Turkish movies in general are released in the United States. Baskin was only the eighth Turkish film released in the United States when it opened in 2015.
Baskin is the story of five policemen who answer a call for back-up in an area known as Inceagac. The five respond to the call and soon find out that they are the ones in danger. This simple setup leads into a tale that is tense, frightening, and thought provoking. The movie does not follow a standard narrative structure — there’s little character development and the plot asks many questions while delivering few answers. Instead, the film tells its story in a linear fashion while interspersing dreams and conversations. This works on many different levels. The constant change in setting and pace keeps the audience on edge. One moment the characters are in an abandoned building fighting for their lives; the next they are in a quiet restaurant discussing life and death. The audience is also given a breather from the high stakes action during these moments. Furthermore, these scenes provide possible clues as to what is happening. On paper, it sounds confusing and frustrating, but instead it’s immensely engrossing.
Baskin is a beautiful to look at. The entire film takes place at night and is gorgeously lit. Scenes are basked in a dark blue or a vivid red — sometimes both. The red adds to the sense of fear that permeates the picture, while the blue heightens the sense of tension. The mixture of colors plays on the audience’s emotions. The blue-tinged scenes add a sense of serenity that the red lighting tells the audience does not exist. This constant pulling of feelings in opposite directions adds to the dark tone. The blue and red will occasionally be broken with a bright light — this sudden change adds to the beauty of the film. Along with the intelligent use of colors and light, there are also scenes involving water and lush forests that are some of the most beautiful ever seen in a horror movie.
Baskin can be a work of art at times, but the third act will make many turn away. The first three quarters of the film is action packed while providing a narrative as to what is happening. The film’s shocking finale stays with this formula, but also becomes far more grisly. The policemen are brutally tortured in graphic scenes. This part of the movie is unabashedly bloody and violent. Interestingly, the film remains with its blue lighting scheme during these moments and still manages to look beautiful despite all the horror.
The cast does well overall, however the standout by far is Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who plays The Father. The Father is one of the most terrifying big bads in horror movie history. He is calm and speaks with a booming voice. Despite being the shortest character in the film, his presence towers over everyone else. The Father is only in the film for a short amount of time, but he is easily the most memorable character.
The camera work in Baskin is beautiful, but it’s also the source of the movie’s greatest weakness. Many times the camera pans slowly. While this is supposed to be done to add tension and anxiety, it usually serves to frustrate. The Father’s first appearance is a great example. He slowly walks down a long winding flight of stairs and proceeds to walk across the room before carefully removing the hood of his robe. The idea behind the scene is clear, however the execution is clumsy. Unfortunately, this is not the first time it happens in the film. What should have been an uneasy scene with a disturbing reveal becomes tedious and disappointing.
Like any surreal movie, Baskin will be a difficult watch for some. The movie provides different ideas and theories without giving any definite conclusion. This sort of open ended storytelling can be as off putting for some as it is satisfying for others. That kind of discomfort is part of its beauty, though. Baskin is definitely worth venturing out of your comfort zone to see.