Fantastic Fest 2015: Baskin, The Mind’s Eye, Evolution, & Ludo



Baskin (dir. Can Evrenol) Following a group of Turkish policemen for the night takes a very dark turn in BASKIN. The film starts slowly. We join the officers as they are grabbing some food before heading out on duty. They are taking turns telling jokes and stories to one another and generally asserting their masculinity. For a brief moment I thought to myself, “These guys seem like a fun group to hang with.” Boy, was I wrong. Director Evrenol eases us into their world and takes his time developing characters and ambiance before unleashing his literal hell. Shortly after their shift begins the night takes a violent turn for the worse and the men stumble on a demonic ritual in an abandoned building. BASKIN does an excellent job of establishing a foreboding atmosphere. The initial slow pace draws you in to the film rather than distancing you from the story. It is as if you are having a conversation with someone who is whispering, and you lean closer to hear better. The film is bloody and knows that lingering shots of gore are far more uncomfortable for the audience than a flinching camera. BASKIN is not for horror fans who need snappy dialogue and sufficient exposition, but as a lover of moody films that payoff in the end I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The Mind’s Eye (dir. Joe Begos) I was admittedly not a fan of Bego’s previous film ALMOST HUMAN, which meant that I was not holding my breath for greatness in THE MIND’S EYE. I was pleasantly surprised that the film was a big step forward for Begos, though there is still room for improvement. THE MIND’S EYE focuses on a small group of people with telekinetic powers. A local doctor (John Speredakos) is researching telekinesis and brings these subjects to his institute. Like any morally bankrupt doctor he is holding these subjects against their will, medicating them to the brink of a coma, and using his research for his own personal gains. Like ALMOST HUMAN, THE MIND’S EYE is a 1980s throwback homage. The synth soundtrack is overwhelming at times and the story basic. But as I watched the film I realized that character development and atmosphere were not the focus of the film, the effects are. From exploding heads to flying men the film acts more like a vehicle to show off artfully created practical effects than it is a story that needs telling. Approaching the experience of the film as an effects showcase really helped me appreciate and understand what Begos was trying to do here. Though it succeeds in that respect, it did not leave me clamoring for more. I am interested to see if Begos is capable of making films that go beyond superficial fun because I have yet to see it from him.

Evolution (dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic) I absolutely adored this French mind-fuck of a film, and I am not certain I understand what happens in it. It is the type of film that when described sounds more like a discordant fever dream than a feature film. In a small seaside village all of the children are boys and all of the adults are young mothers. That’s it. The boys run and play during the day, but are forbidden from exploring the water. At night, when the boys are fast asleep, the mothers all gather on the beach together for ceremonies and rites. This nonsense of plot comes second to the film’s visual design. Watching the sea from below the surface or a pot of porridge bubble on the stove seem just as important as a spinal tap or the loss of a comrade. This is the finest example of a slow arthouse film at Fantastic Fest which means if cannot be for everyone. Expecting a cohesive story or clear plot in films like EVOLUTION will only lead to frustration. Simply allowing myself to experience the film, letting the colors and peculiarities wash over me allowed me to be immersed in Hadzihalilovic’s unique dystopia, and though it is frightening I did not want to leave.

Ludo (Qaushiq Mukherjee) Certain international horror films come along and remind you of both the similarities and differences between our cultures. We start LUDO by following four Indian teenagers as they have a night out on the town. The girls avoid the protective rules of the mother and sneak out to meet up with two boys. After some drinking and merriment their horniness reaches an apex and they scout out a location for humping. The hotels require proof that they are married, so instead the two couples decide to try to campout inside a shopping mall after the doors have been closed for the night. Initially they are successful, but soon they realize that they are not alone. An older man and woman startle the four just as they are finally hooking up. The young girls want to help the older pair, and somehow all of them begin to play a dice game (Ludo is the Indian Parcheesi). Here is where the film falls apart. Though it begins as CHOPPING MALL, and unexpectedly transitions to JUMANJI, LUDO spends the entire second half of the film tangled in a drawn out and uninteresting  origin story of the older couple and the game. It loses its hold on what could happen next and instead focuses on the much less interesting history of two unknown characters. Perhaps the unusual plot structure would be more expected in Indian cinema, but it definitely lost me.  

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Chicago (via Boston and Cleveland) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, High Def Digest, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Birth.Movies.Death., and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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