Director: Can Evrenol
Cast: Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu
Spoilers Within: Yes
Film 7 – #7 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
Based on the 2013 short of the same name, the Turkish surreal horror Baskin follows a squad of police officers on a routine night that literally descends into hell as they make a truly macabre discovery in an abandoned police station. Beyond this rather basic plot, there’s not much in the way of a narrative drive, leading the way for a puzzlingly ambiguous nesting-doll of nightmarish visuals and heavy-handed symbolism.
A curious opening swiftly followed by an extended, vulgar dinner table conversation promises a character driven horrorshow, but it’s not long before this intrigue is soon reduced to little more than elongated scenes of visceral, eye-gouging horror. It’s not until the 50th minute that the group finally get to the abandoned building, and yet the banter that fills a large portion of the film amounts to very little, with zero relation to the plot. This length of time spent on their relationship could have paid dividends when the violence starts, but it really only succeeds in painting them as arrogant jerks with little concern for anyone but themselves.
Without decent character development, once the officers stumble into this grisly vision of hell, there’s little reason to care what happens to them. The one character who has any semblance of a story – Arda (Gorkem Kasal) – is battling both figurative and literal horrors, and even these scenes of individual growth are confusingly written and bring the narrative to an abrupt stop each time. Something about Arda and his mentor Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu) being able to see an outcome by piecing together their past dreams is never clear and these scenes muddle everything with exposition that is restrained to the point of confusion. In a way – and this is not something I often say – there was perhaps not enough exposition: once Arda is revealed to be the youngster from the beginning, the disorientation has already set in.
The abandoned police station which doubles as the Hellmouth – reminiscent of Hellraiser and the Silent Hill games – is easily the greatest element of the film. The production design is fantastic, from eerie wall-paintings to blood-streaked floors, to the truly unnerving plastic-wrapped victims, all of whom have some level of gruesomely realistic deformities. The atmosphere built up in this 10-minute scene is overbearingly chilly, teasing potential of genuine terror and gore, but once the film parks itself in the final stretch, with our squad chained in the basement during a ritual, it becomes a frightfully predictable yet confusing time-loop of horror that doesn’t fully justify its bloodshed.
First time director Can Evrenol has proved that he has a good skill for creating tension and extreme horror, but by Bakskin‘s cyclical end, the peculiar opening and the terrific interpretation of the Hellmouth seems wholly redundant, while the gawkish ‘dreams-within-dreams’ narrative and repetitive gore have long outstayed their welcome.