“Baskin,” with its Bava-esque lighting schemes, unrepentant goriness, and “Hellraiser”-derived mix of carnage and carnality, is, if not the most original horror film in recent memory—it plucks liberally from not only Clive Barker and Mario Bava, but “GoodFellas,” “The Blair Witch Project,” and the work of John Carpenter as well—nonetheless a huge breath of fresh (or rather putrid) air. While so much horror these days is weighted down with grim seriousness and portentous thematics, Turkish director Can Evrenol’s debut feature (expanded from Evrenol’s own short) returns us to horror’s Grand Guignol roots, offering up a stomach-churning array of perversity with a directorial vitality long missing from the genre. Or, to put it slightly differently, “Baskin” is the most purely visual horror movie I’ve seen in quite some time.
That’s not to say it’s necessarily the best horror film of the past decade—Its storytelling is a bit too muddled, its ideas a bit too derivative—but it is one of the few horror films of late that attempts to disturb us primarily with its imagery. And what imagery! Gore-soaked blood sex, entrail-ripping, eye-gouging, freak demons, Cenobites deformed into gross little gremlins—all bathed in glowing pools of colored light. One of my biggest pet peeves with contemporary horror is its utter fear of color. Colorlessness equals grimness equals seriousness, I guess. And we end up with movies like “The Witch” looking like they’ve been soaked for a week in dishwater. Evrenol fully embraces vibrant, expressionistic color, drenching his shots in garish yellows and reds, lending the film a nightmarish funhouse vibe from the first.
If I haven’t touched on “Baskin”’s story, that’s because its impressively sanguineous visuals come at the expense of its storytelling, which is somewhat confusing. The broad outline of the plot is simple: a group of policemen enjoy a meal in a quiet restaurant, during which they converse on, among other topics, the bestial sexual proclivities of the average Turkish man. These scenes have a surprisingly compelling hangout-movie charm, a shoot-the-shit breeziness belied by Evnerol’s ominously roving camera. These policemen will soon find themselves in an abandoned building in which there is taking place some kind of disturbing blood orgy presided over by what would appear to be a demon. Genre buffs will no doubt detect a strong whiff of “Hellraiser” in this description, and they would be right to do so, but where Barker’s film was all about the erotic allure of the demonic (which was essentially equated with BDSM), “Baskin” is simply interested in the stomach-churning combination of gore and sex.
Have these cops discovered a portal to Hell? Or are these demonic doings psychological in nature? These questions are answered, and, even though the plot is somewhat confusingly presented, the film resolves adequately but unremarkably. But the plot, at least in this reviewer’s estimation, is not really the point here. The point is to feed the gorehound in all of us. Whether the gore has some symbolic import or is simply gratuitous is irrelevant. Some of us don’t mind a little gore for gore’s sake. In fact, we quite enjoy it. “Baskin,” whatever its flaws, is for us.