A Horror Film Like You've Never Seen...
"Hell is not a place you go. You carry Hell with you at all times. You carry it inside you..."
So says 'Baba,' the apparent villain of Baskin. The fact that such an ambiguous prosaism is uttered near the film's conclusion might lead one to believe that, if not an explanation of what you've witnessed thus far in the film, it will at least segue in to just such an apprising. But it most definitely does not. The fairly incoherent amphigory continues: "...We are your companions on the road that fate chose for you," Baba says. "While the stones fall into place, we can only be shepherds for you... there's nothing else we can do but guide you."
And so. This is but one small example of the deliberate incoherence of Baskin, -and as incoherent as it may be, this doesn't take away from the movie's charm. Baskin is still an enjoyable indie / foreign horror film, due (in part) to the fact that the viewer knows it's meant to be unclear.
Or, to word it another way: In an age of cinematic over-reaching and the ever present milieu of Hollywood films that have forgotten the old adage "less is more," Baskin serves as a refreshingly unique reminder that, sometimes, the mere hint of a structural plot is enough to keep us watching -so long as every other aspect of the film can carry us through.
Baskin accomplishes this, and more.
Ambiguity With A Purpose: Removing All Comfort
In fact, one of the pros of Baskin is it's lack of clarity, I think.
Consider that the opening scene is a recounting of what is either a dream or, at best, some fuzzy childhood memory in the mind of the main protagonist, Arda (we are never told which, exactly, though most clues seem to point toward it being an actual memory). From there the film jumps to what is (presumably) the present, where Arda -now grown and just beginning his career as a police officer- is sitting in a restaurant with a bunch of his police pals, all of them discussing various lurid exploits.
The film will continue this time-hopping somewhat sporadically throughout, but it does so with a very clear sense of when it is, and isn't, appropriate (which is another clue that the ambiguity here is deliberate, not accidental). Later, Arda and his pals answer a distress call sent out by another group of officers that are holed up inside of a now-defunct police station, which is itself nestled within an obscure Turkish village. In so doing, they seal their proverbial fates, as it were.
There is enough of a plot for us to follow up to this point, albeit loosely, and yet, just when this comforting narrative structure starts to feel linear we are inexplicably thrown back into the restaurant where Arda and his uncle, Remzi (who is also one of his police pals) are sitting alone, having a conversation. Their discussion ultimately references the memory/dream sequence at the film's opening. -No explanation is provided as to whether or not this is something happening concurrently, while they're somehow simultaneously in the aforementioned obscure Turkish village / dilapidated police station, or in the not-so-distant past (both are a possibility, really). This sort of non-linear back-and-forth will continue as the movie unfolds.
I think the point that the filmmakers are trying to make both with the oft-interrupted plot and general ambiguity of the script, is that structure itself is a comfort. In removing that structure, you've removed any and all reassurances for the audience. Suddenly anything can happen, and the audience intuits this. Everything about the story becomes more unnerving; the ambiance more disconcerting.
It takes a talented scriptwriter / filmmaker to pull this off without the plot devolving into something ludicrous however, and yet Baskin has taken up this challenge and faced it head on. And even if the only thing it has achieved in attempting this is being a unique entry into the horror canon, well, job well done and mission accomplished, I say.
Another Pro: Baskin is Genuinely Creepy
I don't know about you, but I've grown weary of the plethora of horror films that have little to offer aside from a bunch of flat characters that serve no purpose other than to be machete-fodder or mere stage-setters for a bunch of cheap jump scares. -I need more.
Thankfully, Baskin offers more. There is something in this movie for every type of horror fan, whether it's well defined characters, or more-than-adequate attention to atmosphere (not to mention a unique storyline -what little you can grasp of it). It's basically an all around solid feature.
To be fair, it does get a *little* torture-porny toward the end, but it seems to tap-dance on the line rather than cross it. While it certainly doesn't go all-out Hostel, nevertheless, as Baskin spirals inward toward it's gory apex, buckets of blood are indeed spilled, guts are removed, eyes are gouged, and... well... you get the picture. For die-hard horror fans, this will only add to the film's allure.
My Take on What Baskin Is About:
I've you've happened across any of my longer entries, such as my analyses of Scorsese's Last Temptation or Wim Wender's Paris, Texas, then you know that unraveling the deeper meanings of a film is one of my fortes. This is especially true of films like Baskin, where the story is so up for grabs that there is considerable room for interpretation.
When it comes to this particular piece, my take is quite simply that Arda and his police pals are all (unknowingly) in hell (the higher levels of hell, specifically) and trying to climb their way out (also unknowingly). 'Baba' and his multitude of minions represent some unique brand of demons that are trying to pull them back down to the lower levels, where they belong. Arda, being arguably the most "innocent" of all the characters, is the only one that really stands a chance of escaping, and good old uncle Remzi recognizes this and is therefore trying to help him succeed, moreso than with the other characters, at least. (It's worth noting that "Baskin" is the Turkish word for "incursion," or "breaking in," as in, "breaking out of hell and back into the world.")
Anyways, this is just my personal interpretation. For those of you that are inspired to check it out (it's on Netflix Instant right now), feel free to stop by afterwards and comment your alternate theories!