2016 Turkish horror film, released in the US mostly on Netflix through IFC.

As a review, this will be insanely spoiler-heavy.

This is one of those films that will not really be spoilered by detailing the facts, because - frankly, because it would not only not be ruined by me telling you in detail what happens - but you'd probably see it and disagree with me in every way about what I think happened in the film. It's a film designed to be an experience, not a narrative: a visual retelling of a nightmare, with all its dream logic.

One of the fun things about horror films from other countries is that symbology or mood that works in one culture doesn't really translate to another, and you get the advantage of experiencing something without a cultural context in advance. When you see a hopping ghost in a Chinese movie, you're not immediately drawn to ideas and folk tales of Taoist magic, you just see one hopping. When you see a child in a fox mask in a J-horror, you don't get the context at all, but just can enjoy the visual for what it is. Not being Turkish, there's probably a lot of this going on for me in consuming this film.

It starts with a dream sequence of a small boy hearing his mother cry out (obviously having sex) and waking up, going to watch a TV with nothing being played, and then her voice goes silent. A hand comes out of the shadows to grab him as he runs screaming to his parents' bedroom door asking for help. We cut to a group of police officers in Turkey in a small rural eatery having their evening meal and relaxing between calls. They're macho guys who retell stories of railing prostitutes, one not even caring when he reaches up the skirt and finds a larger penis than his own. They're filling out a gambling form, smoking Turkish cigarettes and eating meat. I cannot view this film through an Islamic or Jainist lens, but from a Christian or Buddhist one, they're clearly well in the grip of their sins, and those make out their identity.

A sullen teenager working at the place clearly doesn't like cops. One of them takes issue with this and after repeated loud bravado, he takes on the kid in a fight, both agreeing no legal consequences - just square go, man to man. The cop suckerpunches the 15 year old with a Glasgow kiss and proceeds to beat him bloody, before they're interrupted by the senior member of their group screaming uncontrollably in a toilet at the sight of a frog for no reason whatsoever. They're concerned about him, but he says that's fine, there's no cause for alarm it was just a passing panic.

They head out in the van and listen to some kind of Turkish Idol pop song with techno bass and traditional rhythms about "If I can't have the woman I want, I hope she dies". The dispatch radio doesn't seem to work and they keep seeing more and more frogs. The driver is spooked by a naked man who runs in front of their van, and they get out and search for him but find only more frogs. The radio works long enough to request backup at a local village and they head that way.

Further down the road, lights blaring, they hit a man and lose control of the van, going off the road and crashing into a small body of water. The youngest cop has a dream sequence with the oldest one about them sitting together at a table, dining, when blood starts flowing everywhere and pooling around his feet. He's awakened from a dream of being underwater as a result by very actually being pulled from the water and being revived.

They meet up with some Creepy Ethnic People who have no phone or radio, but tell them the area they have been called to is about two hundred yards away.

Where they end up is an abandoned building in the haunted house/abandoned asylum/Blair Witch vein (it's actually an abandoned police station in real life) that turns out to be an actual portal to Hell, with a black mass taking place therein. The fact that rural Turkey is indistinguishable from Hell was not lost on this viewer, who will refrain from further joking on the subject.

They find a police survivor slowly pounding his head against the wall, but get nothing from him. Venturing further into the building, they find Rob Zombie-like Hellraiser scenes of blindfolded naked women carving up living bodies and dropping pieces of discarded meat in tubs - the same meat, it's suggested, that was roasting in the eatery earlier. This is intercut with dream sequences, one of which has the older cop and the young cop facing each other in the eatery. He says he's not sure if this involves him, or the other man, or all four of them, or none of them.

The architecture changes, they find occult books and obvious rituals going on, but are finally too terror-struck by the vivisections to do anything other than be captured and/or dismembered.

Finally the three remaining cops: the oldest one, the youngest one with the dream sequences, and the macho guy who'll even have sex with a male prostitute and likes to beat up 15 year olds, are chained to columns in a chamber attended by what looks like Hellraiser filtered through the crowd of Jabberwocky in a Turkish vein. They all come to a stop when a diminutive hooded man (the director found a man with some odd genetic disorders to play the role), the man you saw earlier delivering meat to the eatery and reaching for the boy in the dream sequence, is attended to by the crowd. A bowl is provided so he can wash his fingers (reminiscent of the Christian acolyte's job during Communion) and then he questions them one by one.

What follows is a fascinating set of theological and psychological themes.

Instead of being a classic Satanic torturer, even though the Father is surrounded by grand guignol - is instead there greeting the three survivors and welcoming them to the intersection of the planes. He points out that Hell is something carried from within as well as without. And then he says all the demons' job is is to shepherd them in the ways they were meant to go. He starts with the macho man first, pointing out that he craves power but is actually scared deep down, masking his inner fears with bravado. He invites the man to cease looking at the world through his own eyes, and look at the world through theirs. To assist him in this, he carves out the man's eyes with a ritual dagger while imploring him in his agony to give up and join them. This not having worked, they bring a female demon to him, him now blind and blindfolded, and she backs up to him on all fours as they insert his penis into her, hoping to claim him through his base sexual urges. Though forced to copulate with her, he ejaculates into her out of pure physical response and not out of enthusiasm. He's been the most obvious physical sinner, but it's all been a front. All an act. He is killed and discarded, as those vices have no actual hold on his soul.

A bit later, she shuffles over to a metal tub and births a small, Alien like object into the tub from their eariler coupling. An attendant takes the object and shepherds it lovingly outside. The Buddhist symbology here is obvious.

The Father then goes to the youngest one, but is interrupted by the older man's taunt to take him instead. The Father obliges, noting that he can already see in the young man's eyes that they've got him. The father doesn't even attempt to try to claim the older cop because of his selfless and sacrifical acts, but merely saws through his neck, killing him.

The dream sequence returns as the two men are once again at the eatery. Suddenly a gaping hole appears through the older man's neck as he talks about protecting the younger man or else he will answer for it in the afterlife. The young man is in the dream logic of a sudden injury in "real life" and tries to help, but the old man dies. Within his neck is a key. (The Christian symbolism here is obvious).

Waking from that dream in the chamber where they're dispatching the two now-dead cops, the young policeman has the key in his hand, and rams it into the keyhole-shaped tattoo in the Father's forehead, killing him. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, he grabs the stool the Father needed to stand on to stand face to face with the police throughout the scene, and pulps his head in with it. He ascends the staircase in the room heading towards white light, seemingly having won.

However, escaping the building and running out into the road, he sees a speeding police van and heads towards it for help, only to turn out to be the man they hit earlier, sending the van into the nearby lake. He appears to be trapped in a never-ending Moebius strip of time. And in this we see the Buddhist and Christian idea of even violence as revenge being something that can snare you - going against the grain of every other film that sees retribution as not only justifiable, but necessary. In killing the Father, he has guaranteed a permanent place in Hell, having woven himself into its fabric.

Again, you might see something totally different in this film - and that's fine. As something that weaves between dream logic, dream worlds, a literal Hell, and a figurative Hell of daily life - it's again about the visceral experience of seeing the frying meat, watching the ugly mass of copulating bodies, the mass vivisection banal horror of bathtubs, shower curtains and barely sharpened iron.

But the filmmakers, who remade this from an earlier short film, have taken an interesting view in not presenting demons as punishers (in the classic sense) or different beings with a horriby out of sync sense of aesthetics (the Cenobites of Hellraiser enjoy pain) but merely guides, or there as servants to let people ensnare themselves in Hell in the manner they choose.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and the director's been compared to Fulci. It's worth it to see for that alone.

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