Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Experience with Turkish Horror

Have you ever seen a Turkish film? Well, considering that Baskin is only the eighth Turkish film officially released in America, signs point to no. Before writing this review, I asked my friends if they’d ever seen anything Turkish. All of them said no, except for the three glorious weirdos who purposely sat through Turkish Star Wars on grainy VHS. That should tell you something about the state of Turkish cinema, or at least America’s awareness of Turkish cinema.

My friends sure know how to pick 'em.
When I sat down to watch Baskin (don’t ask me what the title means), I had no preconceived notions at all. I knew the film was shocking—it had been recommended on one of my all-time favorite podcasts—and I knew it was Turkish, but that’s about it. Unlike other countries, Turkey didn’t have any preset style or viewpoint that I could prepare myself for. (When it comes to horror films, for example, I knew that Italian ones are colorful and Japanese ones are intense and Scandinavian ones are off-kilter.) Having that knowledge beforehand is helpful, which is why my experience watching this fever dream of a film was so intense.
At no point in this film could I brace myself for what was about to happen next. Half the time, I didn’t even know what genre I was watching, or which character I should be paying the most attention to. In a very real way, it felt like I was walking away from a car accident. Everything was blurry and off, and I had to focus all my mental energy trying to decipher my surroundings.
If I had read a little bit about the film, or if I had more of an insight into Turkish culture, prehaps things would’ve been less jarring. But jeeze, was I jarred.
Please don’t assume I didn’t like this film. I did. I loved it. It was one of the most memorable viewing experiences of my life. But it absolutely is not for mainstream audiences… or squeamish people… or overly analytical people… or animal lovers. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and I think you know if you’re the kind of person interested in swallowing this brand of pill.
Because so much of my enjoyment of the film comes from my slack-jawed shock, I don’t want to give away too much of the story. I will say, though, that it often operates on dream logic, that there are some very memorable special effects, and that conversations from early in the film get some definite (wince-inducing) pay-offs at the end. It stars a group of cops wandering into a place they shouldn’t, and the most effective moments are the inexplicable ones.
Don't watch this trailer.
Other than that… you’re on your own. If you want to watch this film, don’t read anything about it beforehand. And if you don’t watch this film, please look up its Wikipedia page to see exactly what craziness you are (wisely) avoiding. Either way, be careful.
And if this is representative of what Turkish filmmakers have to offer, I sincerely hope that more of them will release their films in America. That way, I won’t be the only person in my friend group with recurring nightmares about raw meat.

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