Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Baskin


   I'd had my eye on this movie for over a year. Constantly checking to see if, when, and where it was getting released. The first trailer for it immediately hooked me, and I needed to see this movie. Now I finally have, and I can safely say the wait was worth it. With what little reviews are even out there at this point, critics and keyboard warriors are complaining that Baskin is 'low on plot'. Hearing that as a complaint really grinds my gears. See, there are some movies that are just devoid of enough creativity to generate an interesting plot, and then there are other movies like Baskin, that are that way by design. If you don't like the movie... fine. But, it's REALLY well made.

   The 'low on plot' complaint gets more absurd the more I think about it because so many masterful and classic movies have threadbare plots and nobody even bats an eyelash. In fact, they praise how it does so much with so little. Where's THAT love for Baskin? Writer and director Can Evrenol has crafted a wonderfully nightmarish movie that seems to understand the very fabric of a bad dream- a dream you keep trying to wake up from and can't. Baskin makes enough sense from scene to scene that you can follow the narrative as a movie, but there are enough plot threads and details that stick out to give the movie a thoroughly dreamlike quality.

   It dives in and out of deeper dream realms, characters deliver spooky speeches about fate and death. The camera fetishizes details that look irrelevant, so your eyes are drawn in, scouring the scene for clues or hints or something lurking in the shadows. Every scene is atmospheric and moody, giving the movie an uneasy vibe even when not much is really happening. The movie has a simple plot, but that doesn't mean it's a simple movie. It leaves a lot open to your imagination, but not in the way you might think. That concept when married to horror movies usually means that the killers or the monster isn't ever really seen, or that all the gory stuff happens off screen. Neither is true of Baskin.

   It lets you use your imagination when it comes to the story. There's obviously a much bigger and more complex history to the antagonists of this movie, and thinking about what that might be is just as unnerving and scary as watching them kill their victims. And, speaking of victims, by the time our protagonists, a team of five police officers, happen to stumble across their lair, an old abandoned police station- we can clearly see they've been at this for a while. This small cult has killed dozens and dozens of people in extremely brutal and ritualistic manners. Also, I've got to give props to the filmmakers for creating one of the most disturbing looking cults I've ever seen.

   Especially the perfect casting of the cult leader in Mehmet Cerrahoglu. Now, obviously, that name won't mean much to most audiences because this is Mehmet's first and only screen credit. But... oh my god. His performance was deeply unsettling and extremely disturbing. I can see a bright (or dark..?) future for him in horror movies. He's like a new Michael Berryman, and I say that with as much love and fondness for this genre and the actors in it as humanly possible. He stole the whole show away from the well established leads up to that point. Mehmet had dynamic and chilling onscreen presence.

   A lot of Can Evrenol's inspirations are readily apparent to genre fans. Clive Barker, Eli Roth, David Lynch, and Nicolas Winding Refn- to name just a few. He manages to blend an eerie Euro arthouse vibe with a hardcore splatter flick vibe. Actually, no- scratch that. He doesn't blend them- he does something a lot riskier. The first half of the movie is eerie Euro arthouse cinema, and the second half of the movie smashes in, rubbing our faces in the anxiety inducing, gross-out, extreme gore, of your (above) average splatter flick. Baskin might not be the bloodiest or most insane movie ever, but just because I- as a genre fan, am jaded as hell, doesn't mean I can't recognize it for the demented and wild ride that it is.

   It's a sick and haunting movie that is more concerned with moods and instantly disturbing imagery than it is with backstory and plotting. The necessary story bits are told through the characters and their interactions, and that was fine to me. I liked that aspect of the movie. Baskin succeeds overall, but excels in leaving you with memorable images of things the average person wouldn't ever want to see, let alone have it stuck in their head. Baskin doesn't look cheap, or low budget. It's immersive and gritty, and it's readily apparent flaws can be chalked up to differing tastes and opinions. Some people like more plot-heavy horror movies, so obviously they might be let down by Baskin a bit, but that doesn't mean it's thin plot is a flaw.

   In retrospect, the movie does feel rather small. It only really has three locations, a restaurant, a highway, and the old not-so-abandoned police station. What makes it feel small is how little actually happens in each location. The movie milks each second it can out of every setting it has, and it's surprisingly effective. In lesser hands, this movie would've been an absolute misfire. But, as is, it's a slick and well made piece of gore-splatter cinema. It's moody cinematography, vibrant colors, and synth heavy score bring to mind an extra bloody and Satanic spun Wrong Turn by way of Nicolas Winding Refn. I couldn't say that like it's a bad thing even if I tried. Baskin is destined for overnight cult status, and genre immortality. I loved it.

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