‘Baskin’ Horror Movie Review: Like A Haunted House That Disembowels You At The End

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'Baskin' is loaded with angry, blood-covered cultists. IFC Midnight

An evil priest rips open the stitches holding in a police officer’s intestines with a dirty finger. That’s Baskin.

Baskin is about five cops following up on a call for back-up at an abandoned police station. They take their sweet time getting there—establishing squad squabbles and alliances don’t always require a twenty-minute Reservoir Dogs diner scene—but soon all hell breaks loose.

But Baskins isn’t Aliens. Director Can Evrenol describes it as "a low budget art film disguised as a horror film,” which is true enough. The cops show up to find the police station already deeply troubled by psychic turbulence, visions from the past, and ghostly stalkers.

If Baskin becomes known for anything among horror movie fanatics, it will be for its gore, but it fares better than most goregasms in its setup. While Baskin relies heavily on a final act explosion of body bits, it does better than most horror movies of its type in nailing down an atmosphere early.

While some of the Baskin cops are just homophobic meatheads (one guy’s story about a sexual experience with a transwoman pays off with a gruesome twist late in the film), two others have Baskin’s version of The Shine. Early rendezvous in a strange dream-space put some much-needed flesh on the Baskin bones.

'Baskin' Trailer

After arriving at the scene of the crime (and shrugging off some typically creepy townies) Baskin quickly throws our cops into rooms overflowing with cannibalistic butchers, sex witches, poop orgies, and bathtub torture. Although we’ve already seen a rain of frogs, there’s something gratifying in how grounded Baskin ’s horrors feel. Yes, these are humans pushed to a demonic breaking point, but the practical grunginess of the Baskin horror house feels almost like something a really, really fucked up cult could accomplish.

The last third of Baskin mostly takes place in a single room. The closed doors have all been opened and the sense of a mysterious, occult culmination begins to abate. Baskin’s final black mass is a fantastic location, but it begins to feel more like a satanist recruitment video (not the reddit liberal satanists now associated with the name… maybe some theoretical hardcore splinter group) or death metal video than a movie.

Bone Tomahawk faced down this problem as well, ending a rambling Western road movie with a single room where a small budget can splurge on the more elaborate brutalities against human bodies.

This is for the gorehounds, both movies seem to say, but part of the formula has gone missing. In Day of the Dead, Captain Rhodes is ripped apart because we’ve been waiting the whole movie to see him get ripped apart and dagnabit, he deserves it. Lionel busting out the lawnmower at the end of Dead Alive makes us cheer because Lionel has come into his own and grown as a man. The best gore services story.

Baskin tries to capture some of that same sense of apotheosis, but our emotional connections to the violence are a little too abstract to accomplish much. Eventually the movie’s only choice is to literalize vague emotional stakes, pulling out an actual key to fit an actual lock. Something’s gone slightly wrong if the protagonist’s emotional climax is a visual metaphor.

Baskin handles this with significantly more style than Bone Tomahawk (though what goes down with that flask is something I’ll never forget), yet it’s hard to overcome the sensation that the movie has given way to a haunted house tableau put on by very dedicated haunters.

I can’t complain too much when Baskin is so generous in its execution. There are upsides to Baskin’s turn to the elaborate staging of writhing bodies, stabby rituals and goathead sex black magick. This is a movie that knows exactly what its audience is looking for and goes to backbreaking lengths to give it to us. YouTube conspiracy theorists lazily montaging the Masonic-Satanic-Illuminati connection will be pulling clips from Baskin for years to come (“Is this what really happens at Bohemian Grove?” asks our breathless narrator). Moments of Baskin already feel like new gore canon, nearly worthy of French extreme-wave flicks like Martyrs.

Still, servicing the atmosphere above everything else slowly drains the viewer’s generosity. It’s easy to forgive clichés like “creepy guy licks blood off a knife” (if Bellatrix Lestrange is doing the creepy lick in a Harry Potter movie, it’s officially not scary) if the movie offers more than flair. Thankfully, Baskin does, even if it wears thin at times.

 

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