Director: Can Evrenol
Cast: Mehmet Cerrahoğlu, Ergun Kuyucu, Görkem Kasal, Muharrem Bayrak, Fatih Dokgöz, Sabahattin Yakut
Running Time: 97 minutes
Words by Scott Murphy
There are many countries in the world that have noted horror cinema histories obviously the United States but also the likes of the UK, Italy, Japan etc. Turkey is not, however, a country you readily associate with horror (although some horror geeks may point to “Seytan”, the 1974 Turkish “The Exorcist” rip-off) and certainly not the kind of hardcore horror this movie provides which makes it slightly unusual from the off.
Although in the opening sequence you may not be able to initially tell it is indeed a Turkish film as it starts with a dream sequence in a child’s room which as it full of action figures and poster’s of American cartoons and we have a synth score that would not be out of place in a John Carpenter movie it seems we could be in a Suburban American horror that said it is a creepily effective scene that nicely sets up the tone of the movie even if initially it seems unconnected to the story (it is explained later).
The plot centres on 5, possibly corrupt, police officers who we first meet having a late dinner at a roadside establishment. We quickly establish the different characters who bond, as macho types do, by talking about screwing whether that be screwing someone at a brothel, screwing a transsexual street prostitute or screwing various animals (with one character hilariously asserting that “70% of Turkish men lose their virginity to an animal!” – the others unsurprisingly are less than convinced).
They set off on their way when one gets into a scuffle with the restaurant’s owner son while another freaks out after having some sort of hallucination in the men’s room. Also, in this sequence of the movie there is a mysterious figure coming in and out of the fringes of scenes. None of this is particularly terrifying but there is a crackling sense of tension in these scenes which tease the horrors to come.
Soon after the group leave, they receive a distress call from other police officers from a place called Inceagac. A town that is surrounded by many strange rumours and myths none of which we sense are good. This is where both the horror and the surrealism are cranked up as more and more strange things start happening on the way to the town. It is also obvious that the lead cop Boss Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu) knows more than he is letting on while the rookie Arda (Gorkem Kasal), who Remzi has taken under his wing, may have a bigger part in what is happening than he is aware.
It is in this first half that most of the most of the movies spine tingling sequences happen. Director Everol certainly knows how to create a crackling sense of tension as well as having a great visual flair for surreal and off-kilter imagery that lasts long in the mind. The second half is quite different, as the group reaches Inceagac and the abandoned former police station where the distress call came from, taking a more torture porn route.
While there is some interesting stuff here this is probably the less effective half of the film. That said the design of the hell labyrinth that the group stumbles into or were destined to go is excellent. Also, there is plenty of twisted action in this vision of hell all writhing gimp orgies, flesh-eating and demented butchery. While some of it is visually inventive, in a grandly grotesque sort of way, it can feel derivative with a very heavy “Hellraiser” influence evident. The gory action in this part will also bring to mind the likes of Eli Roth and Rob Zombie with the labyrinth also bearing some resemblance to Dr Satan’s underground lair in “House of 1000 Corpses” (itself very similar to the cave dwellings of the Leatherface family in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2”).
We are also properly introduced to The Father (Mehmet Cerrahoğlu) the leader of this hell-based blind cannibalistic gimp cult (not a sentence you get to write every day). Who is one of the film’s strongest and weakest elements. Due to a rare skin condition the actor has a very unique look and is a striking screen presence brooding, sinister and creepy when he is on the periphery of the film and when he is first revealed. The problem is when he speaks. Not that it is the actor’s fault just that his dialogue is a mixture of cosmic mumbo-jumbo and cod-profundity which sucks the air out of the tension previously built and may provoke titters rather than chills.
It will be intriguing to see how this movie will go down with horror fans as you sense that many gorehounds will be enthralled by the second half while finding first half boring while those who find the first half captivating will quite possibly be put off by the histrionics of the second half.
Overall: There are many good ideas here, there is plenty going on visually as the film is imbued with a Lucio Fulci-style dream logic and Evrenol certainly knows how to ratchet up the tension. Which is why it is even more disappointing that the characters were not more fleshed out, that the dialogue sometimes clunks and the derivativeness of some of the torture porn stuff. Making what could have been an excellent film, merely a solid one. That said it is a very interesting debut plus I admire the sheer balls of filming such a messed up movie on location given censorship in Turkey (it was shot entirely night to avoid authorities finding out what they were filming).
Words by Scott Murphy