Monday, February 3, 2014

Interview With Turkish Director Can Evrenol On His New Horror Short: BASKIN

 ~by Marie Robinson

 Have you ever seen a Turkish horror film? Odds are your answer is “no” due to the country’s strict film distribution laws. On top of that, horror cinema is relatively absent, and the handful of films are do exist fare better as comedies. Istanbul based director Can Evrenol dreams of exposing the world to quality horror cinema, and is driven to see his newest film, Baskin, become the first mainstream genre film from Turkey.

Since Turkey prohibits their 18+ over films from receiving wide release, festivals are essentially the only international exposure Evrenol’s horror films get; but with perseverance he hopes to eventually find a sponsor who will give his film the wide distribution he craves.

Evrenol works on commercials to pay the bills, but his real passion is for the silver screen with a particular taste for the darker side of cinema. He has directed six short films, all of which can be viewed on his website, here (, with the exception of his latest, Baskin. Evrenol’s films pack a punch—if you were being punched by a baseball bat covered in exposed nails. Atrocious avant-garde, there is no shortage of on-screen slaughter, and don’t even think of praying for a cutaway, they’ll go unanswered. Innovative and disturbing, Evrenol often couples innocence and deviance, splattering any boundaries between them like a skull on the sidewalk. His 2010 short film To My Mother and Father won such awards as Best Short Film of the Year (Boston Underground), Best Lovecraftian Short Film (A Night of Horror), and Most Disturbing Short Film (HP Lovecraft Festival).

Evrenol’s latest, Baskin, was featured at last year’s Fantastic Fest where it was received with bloodcurdling screams (the good kind). It follows a troupe of policemen who receive the call-in from hell. Within a derelict building they find a satanic den where all manners of atrocities are seemingly performed and the most diabolical creatures reside. Tense and terrifying, Evrenol’s quick tour through hell is one of visual splendor. Baskin may only be eleven minutes but one could easily find themselves watching half of it through their fingers. It is a story that I would love to see fleshed out into a feature film. I had the pleasure of speaking with Can Evrenol about the possibility of such a wonderful, nightmarish thing coming to be, among other things:

What does Baskin mean?

Turkish for 'The Raid'. It was the working title, but it stuck. I loved the way it sounded. I didn't want another 'The Raid' in festival circuit, so I thought of just keeping the international title the same as the Turkish title. A good friend Ryan Haysom, director of 'Yellow: A Neo Giallo', said in his feedback that it sounds ancient and Lovecraftian. That was it! I kept it. 

It does have an Old Ones ring about it. There is overt evidence of Lovecraft inspiration in several of your films. Who are some of your other influences?

Veerhoeven, Cronenberg, Lynch, and Kubrick are some of my favorite directors that immediately come to my mind when asked. Unfortunately I wasn't introduced to Lovecraft until the age of 25. My first ever memory of 'horror literature' is probably an early 80's animation of Swan Lake. I remember I was fascinated and terrified when I heard Tchaikovsky's music fade in for the first time! My inspiration comes in many mediums of literature, be it computer games, or graphic novels - and of course the most horrifying of them all, life itself. 

Your talent and ambition is solidifying you as an important filmmaker not only to your country, but to the genre, as well. How did you find your place in horror, and what brought you to the decision to make horror movies?

Well, thank you! It's great to hear such kind words coming from you. I think it all happened when I shot my second short film 'The Chest'. I was watching plenty of Fulci, Romero, listening to Slayer and reading Lovecraft at the time. But even before that, one can say my first short film 'Screws' is a dark adaptation of one of my favorite Turkish short stories. And even way before that, when I was 7, I was in love with the cassette covers of Iron Maiden, Manowar and Over Kill. 

Have you ever thought of relocating?

I was based in the UK for about 9 years. I loved it. But every city in the world has its pros and cons when compared to the crazy, crazy Istanbul. It's a beautiful city. Especially when you grow up here all your life and build your whole network around it. But it's also disturbing and things keep getting darker and darker lately. I recently returned here where I pay the bills by shooting TV commercials, and most importantly where I'm most resourceful. 

What is next for you? Any plans for a feature film?

I struggled to find sponsors for a horror feature film here for 2 years after the success of my short film 'To My Mother and Father' in 2010. But to no avail. I dropped it. Then came 'Baskin'. It too became successful in Fantastic Fest and Sitges. Eli Roth and Richard Stanley loved it in Sitges. I had priceless feedback. It is also successful here at home. It is nominated as the best short film to SIYAD, Turkey's most prestigious film critics' award. 

But still, it seems impossible to find any sponsors for Baskin The Motion Picture. It will be in Turkish language, so foreign sponsors are distant to it. Censorship and conservatism in Turkey is growing more extreme and more illogical day by day. A wide cinematic release would be a miracle. Although films like Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw, or Martyrs do get small cinematic releases here, a Turkish film could draw more heat and therefore can have less of a chance for a wide release. Funding by the ministry of culture with the content at hand is out of question. There are no respectable Turkish horror films to follow. Neither sponsors, nor serious filmmakers touch it with a 10 feet pole. It seems impossible to meet a fellow like-minded private Turkish money man who would invest in a crazy horror picture. So it seems like a dead end. 

But I do have a hunch that all these negative circumstances can work for the film when it
gets made, and it can have a huge reputation for being so crazy in such a political and cultural atmosphere! That will be the uniqueness of it.

I do have a new plan now. Currently I'm in the works for shooting a non-horror feature film this summer. And I hope to use the money I make from this film, for making Baskin the Motion Picture, next year. Fingers crossed. 

*Keep an eye out for Can Evrenol, and in the meantime, watch the trailer for Baskin below.


Sharlee Madden said...

Great article, packed with info and written well to keep my interest. Liked the background too, nice touch.

razzell2 said...

I am watching the feature film, Baskin, right now on my pc.
So, apparently the director got his wish and received funding for a full feature version of the film.
Pretty spooky, creepy, gory flick. But very interesting and quite intriguing I am enjoying it.