The trailer for Baskin made the social media rounds a while back (about a year ago). It looked pretty grimy and bloody. Right up my alley. I put it in my list of films to keep on my radar but never saw it. Did it come to Chicago? Maybe. But if it did, I certainly didn’t catch it. I checked periodically to see if it was at my local video store (Facets). I put it in my “saved” queue on Netflix DVD. I asked in back alley tea shops and opium dens. I came up with nothing. Until it showed up on Netflix Instant. (i love living in the future!) So, what did I do? I watched it. (natch) Should you do the same? Well, read on to find out!
A band of policemen (a gaggle?) kill some time at a tiny cafe where they talk loudly and carry on like a bunch of assholes. They even have a Pesci-in-Goodfellas style run-in with the busboy when he laughs at one of the cop’s stories about a sexual encounter. Their good time is spoiled not only by the tussle with the busboy, but also by the fact that one of them has a bit of a weird episode in the bathroom. They leave the place in their van to get back to work. Soon, they get a call for backup in Iceagac, a village known to be home to strange things. But these are strapping, manly cops, so they’re not scared! They take the call and head into the fray. They barely make it there in one piece, however, because they hit a person with their van en route and careen into a river. They survive that ordeal only to find that the place to which they were called (look at me, the consummate grammarian!) is the site of some crazy cult orgy / massacre / black mass. These guys just can’t catch a break!
Remember when I used the word “grimy” to describe Baskin in the intro to this review? Did that strike you as funny? How can a movie be grimy? Well, if you’re having trouble picturing it, just check this film out (or the trailer if you haven’t seen it). It is GRIMY. The set design and art direction are just gross. Everything is covered in filth. Everything. Even the diner looks disgusting, with dirty floors and a rusty old pail pushed in through the back door containing the meat for the grill. And when the cops get to the site of the distress call, they find Barker-esque scenes of blood, other bodily fluids, evisceration, and sex (of all sorts). The dark, desaturated cinematography (videography?) is perfectly suited to this aesthetic and adds to the grime. You’ll need a shower when you’re done watching this one! The plot line is fairly thin, but mainly focuses on the chief of the squad and the rookie. Chief is an avuncular figure to the young man and constantly looks out for him. This bit of emotional anchoring doesn’t bog down the terror at all. In fact, it serves as a nightmarish plot device when the rookie has visions of relative normalcy in which the chief offers a little bit of exposition. These visions, however, don’t necessarily clear anything up for the viewer. In fact, they serve to plunge the story into nightmarish surreality. (i’m using that whether it’s a real word or not) I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a big fan of nightmare logic when it’s done right. And Baskin nails it. It keeps the viewer teetering on the edge of confusion while it delivers a gut-punch of depravity and perversion.
The Final Cut: Baskin is a disgusting, filthy nightmare that delivers a near perfect, surreal glimpse into our worst fears of cult zealotry. This one is not for the faint-hearted.