Baskin revolves around a team of five police officers whose evening is interrupted by a distress call from the rural town of Inceagac, a place haunted by rumours of strange occurrences and secrets. Upon arriving, the men quickly discover these rumours are more than just imagined nightmares. In fact, the truth is beyond imagination in the depth of its depravity and darkness. Director Can Evernol’s film is a work of striking horror texture, laced with a genuinely admirable vein of dark artistry, yet muddled by vexing issues in the construction and narrative of the film that somewhat clouds the clarity of its purpose and power.

I must confess from the imagery teased in the marketing of Baskin, I was prepared for a relentless gore fest from the very first. However, I instead found myself completely surprised by a patient and quietly menacing slow burn to start of proceedings. Rather than confronting the audience instantly, Baskin takes a deliberately measured distance, focusing on the central police officers indulging in each other’s company at a restaurant. Beneath this slowly unfolding back and forth of character development and humourous asides, Evernol holds a suggestive undercurrent of building menace and anxiety, a sense that something is very wrong and it is working its way into the very fabric of this collective’s world. Indeed, this sheer deliberate nature becomes one of the film’s core strengths and weaknesses. It’s so focused on achieving a particular sensibility of horror, affective of previous visions and styles, and this is at its most crystallised and effective in the aesthetic of Baskin.

The visual world Evernol and cinematographer Alp Korfali craft is a work of utterly demented beauty; the sharp contrast of overwhelming darkness with eerily overstated hues of almost neon shades of blue and red creates a stylised palette able to evoke tremendous unease and dread. The excessive nature of this combo is particularly reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2, although heavily reduces on the obvious zany qualities of that work in order to draw out the same sense of a warped world in the grip of something unfathomable. As the film pulls the viewer even deeper into the well of darkness, the overwhelming nature of the aesthetic truly reinforces a sense of pervading evil, a darkness that is masked with a sense of cultish adoration that inevitably morphs into diabolical devotion and sacrifice. Writhing bodies twisting and blurring into a mass of reviled flesh, corpulent in the pleasure of their unholy otherness, abound in contrast to more subtle iconographical touches that have been layered through the course of the film, such as repeated imagery of the physical texture of frogs, and keyholes as portals to hidden spaces. In this construction, Evernol and Korfali create a truly gruesome vision, one of the more distinctive and captivating in modern horror. At the film’s best, Baskin evokes the masochism of Clive Barker’s classic Hellraiser, one that is positively dripping from the later scenes of the film, and channels the unsettling play of dream and reality that Wes Craven so eloquently and powerfully evoked in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

However, while the imagery is unquestionably viscerally potent and raw, Baskin ultimately lacks a true bite due to flaws in other areas of the film’s craft. The aforementioned pacing of the film leaves the narrative too exposed in its weaknesses, relying greatly upon the tension created and moments of abstract imagery to distract from the lack of true depth to the characters and their relationships. Ultimately, it’s tough to invest enough in the main cast to really feel the sting of the horror they are enduring; it’s an adorned sense of grotesque, rather than a gut punching experience as result. The violence is visually shocking in the most excessively suggestive way, but without that emotional weight, it feels like a hollow challenge. Of course, this is a common issue in the horror genre, particularly in the slasher sub-genre, but the problem within Baskin comes in its intentions. It almost seems to reject the simplicity of lining up characters for the slaughter and wants to create something more grounded in real male relationships, so the threat of hellish torment towards them will illicit genuine fear. However, this never truly happens within the space of the narrative as they ultimately feel like blank canvases (apart from the lead character, Arda, whose troubled psychological anxieties the audience is privileged to witness in surrealist dream asides) and rather than play on the reflexive angle of these characters as lambs to the slaughter, it pushes too far into a deliberate emotional manipulation which it just doesn’t have the strength to reach…and ironically, makes them feel exactly like the typical bland cannon fodder we’ve seen a thousand times before.

In this structural imbalance, the film feels splayed and unwieldy when it could have been a taut experience of terror, like a coil ready to strike and explode in a bizarre burst of gut wrenching horror. However, crucially the abundance of Evernol’s macabre vision shines so glaringly that these flaws may lessen the overall impact, but it can’t blot out the disturbing dread of the film’s most uncanny moments, in particular the officers’ discovery of the hellish underground world, a sequence where the previously simmering dread bubbles over into an ecstasy of pain realised in the physical weight of death. If Baskin is anything, it’s a showcase of promise from Evernol.

Ultimately, as a visceral experience, Baskin is an extremely effective experience, filled with potent imagery and a pervasive sense of evil in the very textural fabric of the world, something all-encompassing waiting not just to swallow humanity, but to grind its teeth on the collective flesh and bone. However, imbalance in the pacing and narrative depth of the film, as well as arguably sincerity of vision, hinders Baskin in terms of elevating to the level of a modern cult classic, something that it genuinely teases in evocative flashes. In spite of these flaws, Baskin is unquestionably a vision worth tumbling down the sinister rabbit hole to pursue for those in search of an exploitation fuelled work of deliberate, grimy and viciously displayed horror.

Movie Review: Baskin
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk