Baskin is a bestial Turkish horror film where horrific things do happen, so gird your loins, but in the service of what exactly? Clearly padded to fill out its short-form source material—director Can Evrenol’s 2013 short of the same name—the film is still slender on story and then hopes to compensate with grisly, balls-to-the-wall excess rather than giving the viewer characters to care about. Filled to the hilt with splatter, grime and strikingly grotesque imagery that would have made Lucio Fulci green with envy, it is surely a waking nightmare that will melt your face off, but hard to make heads or tails of a deeper point. In what could have been a commanding, bleakly effective tour de force, Baskin revels in the nasty muck and freefalls into extreme insanity without anything else to ponder after the fact. After you wash your hands of it, all that’s really left is a calculated gore-for-gore’s-sake orgy.
Five policemen, one of which is rookie Arda (Gorkem Kasal), grab a late bite to eat at a roadside restaurant. Before leaving, one of them picks a fight with a harmless waiter, while another becomes anxious and ill. Back on the road, they answer a distress call for back-up that leads them to hitting something in the middle of the road, getting in a wreck, and encountering a backwoods clan of frog hunters. They walk on foot to find one of their squad cars parked outside an abandoned onetime police station. Once inside to discover the horrors that await, Arda and his fellow officers find themselves in an infernal chamber where their fates are already sealed.
Written by director Can Rvrenol and screenwriters Ogulcan Eren Akay, Cem Ozuduru and Ercin Sadikoglu, Baskin (Turkish for “raid”) is batshit-crazy and inscrutable, playing out like an extreme episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It gets off to a promisingly nightmarish start, opening with Arda as a young boy waking up to his mother’s coital moans and then being spooked by a zombified arm emerging from a neon-hued doorway. This is surreal imagery that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dario Argento picture, underscored by a phantasmagoric music score by first-time composer Ulas Pakkan. Before the is-it-real-or-not? gorefest commences, the only endearing conversation the characters have between one another is about bestiality and their “Crying Game” situations. With unproductively spent time getting less than acquainted with them, it’s tough to become invested in whether any of these Neanderthals live or die.
Director Can Evrenol works up to a show-stopping middle section with an increasingly tangible sense of doom before intensely ballistic pandemonium and repetition set in. Not without merit for those who do like their horror sick and brutal and brass-balled, the film has its gnarly sights—a perverted act done with a woman dressed as a goat will burn itself into your memory whether you want it there or not—to make one effectively wince. Mehmet Cerrahoglu is also very frightening in a Michael Berryman sort of way as the cloaked cult leader who masters the blood-spilling ceremonies.
Yes, Baskin excels in its one and only aim, which is to shock and disturb, but to a fault, the film does truly become hell to watch. The notion of childhood nightmares is tied into the five policemen’s journey to hell, particularly for Arda, but then a twist ending seems to be a bit of a cop-out. Even technically, Alp Korfali’s camerawork tends to get overly chaotic, trading intensity for unruliness. Ultimately, though, when the dead meat isn’t worth our cares, very little seems to be at stake. Perhaps Baskin will have a place with the midnight-crowd, although it leaves one feeling more violated than terrified.