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Turkish Torture-Porn Horror Flick "Baskin" Revels in Revolting Phantasmagoria 

Yuck yuck yuck. For adventurous late-night cinephiles and itinerant gore-fest fanatics, the 2015 Turkish horror film Baskin, screening at midnight at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday, April 16, and at 7:30 on Wednesday, April 20, might be a curiosity worth checking out. For most everyone else, this derivative hellscape barf-carnival will be a tough sit.

After a spooky prologue, five police officers trade barbs at a rural roadside diner. The atmosphere is actually assembled with great artistry and eye for tension: the foggy-night-forest setting, the scenery, the throwback score. Even if these cop bros weren't regaling each other with tales of sexual exploits, it'd be clear something was up. One of their number has grown inexplicably ill. In the kitchen, a cook is slicing and grilling suspicious meats.

There's a minor brouhaha, and the cops respond to a call for backup in a remote Turkish village nearby. Only one of the quintet, the sick one, has heard of the area, and he says it's famous for unpleasant, if unsubstantiated, rumors. The police van hits something en route — a man? an animal? a demon? — and the cops must be escorted through the woods to their destination by some guy from a band of gypsy frog catchers.

They arrive at an enormous former police station, built "in the Ottoman days," inside of which (unbeknownst to them) lurks some really disgusting stuff. The officers are naturally frightful of the bloody eyeballs and rodent carcasses hanging from the ceilings, not to mention a deranged colleague banging his head to a pulp against a wall. But hearing the siren song of fate, perhaps, they descend to a dungeon. And there — good evening! — a cult of sackcloth zealots rape, amputate and cannibalize each other nonstop.  

The film is not self-consciously ridiculous, along the lines of The Human Centipede, though it hails from the same U.S. distributor. Nor is the premise as imaginatively depraved as the 1987 seminal British horror flick Hellraiser. It's frankly unclear what the story even is. We know that the rookie cop was orphaned long ago (we saw him in the prologue) and has been under the guardianship of the police chief. Both of them possess some degree of supernatural vision, but it's unclear why or how or to what end. A final twist fails to satisfy.

What is clear — pretty explicitly — is that the dungeon they've wandered into is meant to be hell. But have the cops died to get there? And if so, what have they done to deserve such misery? Was the explicit conversation in the diner meant to suggest that these are all irredeemably rotten dudes? If so, what about the chief, who carries and constantly fingers a rosary? And why, moreover, is the disfigured dungeonmaster, "the Father" (played by Turkish non-actor Mehmet Cerrahoglu who, like Michael Berryman in 1977's The Hills Have Eyes, has leveraged a unique skin condition into a bankable horror-movie asset) re-killing them?

The movie's primary scene and climax is the Father's abstract philosophizing as he individually torments the policemen. His visual introduction is an homage to Kurtz in Apocalypse Now — a bowl of water, hands gently palpating a bald head — and awaiting the reveal of the Satan figure is indeed a thrill. But the Father's ritual slaughters, much like the blood-and-poop practical effects writ large, despite being visually competent (and resourceful, given the budget) are gross without being all that original.   

The performances are by and large strong. The opening diner scene, in particular, might have set the table for a top-notch movie, and bodes well for debut director Can Everol. But don't go see this one with any expectation of meaningful character development. And don't go see it with children. Only the stunted feral monsters of The Hills Have Eyes might call Baskin "fun for the whole family."

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