TIFF 2015: Baskin

Baskin-Movie-Poster

Baskin started off as a horrifying short film that garnered such praise and attention that it was expanded and developed into a feature. I use the word “expanded” in the sense that it’s still a short film with the same ideas, but now it’s ninety minutes long.

The Midnight Madness selections at TIFF have become my favoured festival picks. These are the type of films you won’t get to see anywhere else (like Hardcore, the POV action film that I will be seeing later in the festival) and pushes the boundaries on genre cinema – which is where all the fun stuff to watch is. Like all programmes, Midnight Madness is bound to have a few duds, and unfortunately that’s the one I got tickets to.

Taking place over one night, five Turkish policemen get a call for backup at an apartment building that looks like a haunted mansion hidden in the woods where the rent is probably dirt-cheap. The affordability and isolation of the location is probably what attracted the unsavoury types who live there – a bunch of ghoulish characters with dirty toilet paper wrapped around their heads, a horrible dental plan, and a penchant for walking and writhing on all fours. Oh, and they’re led by a wizened, scarred, and bald necromancer who requires a footstool to look his victims in the eyes. The casting director deserves some kudos for the actor who plays the evil leader – he has a unique and otherwordly look that is the creepiest part of the film.

Yada, yada, yada, the five policemen are captured by the ghouls (minus one who happily takes a large mallet to the head) and the remaining survivors spend an excruciating length of time being tortured by necromancer. The strains of adapting a short to feature length really shows during the second half of the film – whereas I imagine in the short there was only one or two victims to torture and torment, the feature adopts a “more is more” attitude and adds an additional two victims for diminishing returns. There’s only so many times you can watch a creepy necromancer lick a bloody knife before it becomes eye-roll inducing rather than shocking. In Baskin, that occurs around the fourth (or fifth) time.

Baskin could be the poster child for desensitization that future politicians will use as evidence of society’s moral decay. There is disturbing imagery in the film (and a weird sex sequence where a character is asked to “show his heart”) but it becomes fairly standard and boring as the film drags on. There’s no real empathy for the policemen (who are portrayed as obnoxious jerks), there’s no plot beyond the drive to the dilapidated apartment building, and the creatures, while terrifying in small doses, are overused. Despite the depravity and violence, the film overstays its welcome and incredibly becomes a self-parody where the only real suspense comes from wondering when the slog will be over.

Baskin is similar to a desperate circus geek (the geek that eats chicken heads, not the one that codes C++) doubling down on a disturbing act but revealing himself to be a one-trick pony. There’s only so many chicken heads one can eat before the act becomes a little tired. Same goes for demons gutting policemen.

Grade: D-

Sidenote:  There’s some Shining-esque paranormal powers that some of the policemen have, but it is woefully unexplained and adds little to the film, besides being a deus ex machina to conclude the film after the script has written itself to nowhere.

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