A quintet of Turkish cops sit in an Istanbul diner one evening, whiling away their shift taking about football and, er, what it's like to lose your virginity to an animal. Rookie cop Arda (Gorkem Kasal) is learning the ropes - both in terms of the job, and in getting his head around his colleagues' unusual senses of humour.
One of the group, Yavuz (Muharrem Bayrak), is a livewire who likes to take centre court and is not averse to starting a fight with the diner's young waiter for no good reason. Chief Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu) tries his best to keep order. Meanwhile, fellow group member Seyfi has been sat quietly for the entire evening - eventually retiring to the toilet where he vomits, sees a frog curiously sat in a sink and then looks into his own reflection in the bathroom mirror and screams. Yes, this night is about to get extremely bizarre ...
His colleagues put Seyfi's fit down to a bout of claustrophobia and, upon his insistence, they continue their nightshift in their police van with him, now apparently recovered, behind the wheel. Their fun continues in the van for a short while but comes to an end when they answer a call for back-up from a notorious neighbourhood nearby - reports of a disturbance in an old building there need their attention.
Upon reaching the building they realise that it's a former police station which has been abandoned for several years. They first encounter a bloodied survivor of the first police dispatch to have answered the distress call, who points them in the direction of his deceased colleagues.
As they venture further into the old building, Arda and company encounter ... well, it would be unfair to elaborate any further as this would take you well into the film's final half. What I will say is that this is a journey into Hell governed by a Satanic cult led by the curious Father (Mehmet Cerraholgu) who looks like an adult version of a Garbage Pail Kid. But that's not a spoiler; I'm merely scratching the surface there.
Although BASKIN is a very dark film (everything happens at night) it's also very well-lit and filled with rich colours which bring to mind the finer works of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. These nods to Italian horror are likely intentional, as director Can Evrenol even squeezes in a few moments of Riz Ortolani's seminal CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST score during one notable gore scene.
In fact, this is a very artistic film. The framing, colours, lighting, editing and music are all meticulously considered. There's sometimes a danger when a director obsesses over technical aspects to such an extent that they forsake characterisation, but Evrenol does take time to invest in his protagonists during the film's first 45 minutes. They're a questionable, but ultimately believable, bunch - and they stay true to their character traits throughout.
For hardcore horror fans, I can report that there's a fair amount of well-executed gore (all practical) and the tone is satisfyingly grim throughout. The locations used and cinematography keep the emphasis on sustaining a creepy vibe throughout.
Where the film falters is in terms of plot. It's frustratingly ambiguous at times and leaves too many plot points unexplained. Earlier conversations between the cops are cryptic, leading me to believe clues are littered as to what we're actually experiencing - are the cops all sinners and they're being punished for these? Is this Arda's fever dream, based upon his childhood memories? - but Evrenol seems unconcerned with explaining anything, especially when a predictable twist ending raises more questions than it answers.
Perhaps the answer lies in Father's line "Hell is not somewhere you go to, it's something you carry with you. It's inside of you".
Either way, take BASKIN on as an aural and visual feast of horror tropes and you're unlikely to come away feeling too short-changed.
Severin Films continue to add to their superb UK blu-ray catalogue with this HD premiere.
The film is presented in full 1080p HD as an MPEG4-AVC file and, at 96 minutes and 36 seconds in length is fully uncensored. The original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is upheld here in a loving transfer which offers a sterling representation of BASKIN's luscious colour schemes and ominous, imaginative production design. Bold, vivid, true; this is a great presentation, complete with deep solid blocks and excellent detail.
Turkish audio is presented in options of 2.0 and 5.1. Both mixes have been given the DTS-HD Master Audio treatment and are very impressive propositions. English subtitles are burned-in but that's okay; they're well-written and easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
Extras commence with an intriguing 18-minute Making Of featurette, replete with handy English subtitles. Behind-the-scenes footage reveals the shoot to be a surprisingly jovial-looking one. Line producer Sina Pekcanatti offers some insight into assembling a crew for a feature film and tells of how the movie was completed in just 27 days; scriptwriter Cem Ozuduru tries to make sense of the film's synopsis with little success; Evrenol reveals how the feature screenplay was written in ten days, following cult filmmaker Eli Roth's interest in the original 2013 short of the same name.
Speaking of which, the original 12-minute short is presented here in all its gory glory. It's an atmospheric piece, one that clearly plays as a dry run for a bigger project. Though clearly filmed on a much lower budget than its successor, this is still filled with imaginative sound design, stirring music and intense visuals. It's clear to see how this quickly became a talking point among festival-goers worldwide. If anything, the surrealism works better here as a short film's punchline than as the extended headfuck of the feature version.
The film's original 92-second trailer is a stylish, fast-paced affair with an emphasis on the film's ghoulish visuals and careful editing which hides the plot's incomprehensibility.
This release comes in a keepcase with additional outer slipcase packaging.
BASKIN may not make a great deal of sense but is a fun, scary, gory ride and comes highly recommended as a result.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Severin Films|