Bright Lights 2018: Can Evrenol

When we think of the Masters of Horror, there is a rogues gallery of names that come to mind: John Carpenter, George Romero, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper just to name a few. Typically these four names come up often when people are trying to define the next wave of genre artists as well. “Fuck having his own voice, this person is the new Wes Craven!” or something similar may be plastered on horror sites across the internet. Which makes sense: these four are some of the greatest All American horror directors out there. Yet even in foreign cinema, you very rarely here audiences say, “Oh, wow. This director is the new Lucio Fulci!”. And why is that? Because no one has been brave enough to ever try and tackle films in that way that Fulci, Bava, and Argento have. Argento, clearly one of the most influential directors of the 20th century, has had his imitators yet no one’s ever even attempted the level of insanity that even a film like Phenomenon achieves. Well, that is, until Can Evrenol.

Can Evrenol (to my best knowledge: pronounced zh-awn, almoooost like Jean in Valjean) blasted on the scene with his 2015 work Baskin, equal parts bloody descent into hell and deep folk horror, it’s biggest impact was made through the sheer amount of declarations that the media were giving the film. It was either straight outta or a trip to hell, that is a torture gore blow out that rises above pure nausea, which, simply put is an orgy of the damned. It was rather unprecedented. But exciting! Because usually when we get this type of anticipation for a film, we will end up disappointed. Not with Baskin. It was everything and so much more. While yes, there is a descent into absolute hellish mayhem the path to get there is full of visual wonder.

The thing that caught my eye the most within these hyperbolic headlines was the fact that it was from Turkey, a country that generally isn’t much discussed in film circles, especially horror film circles. Evrenol was born and raised in Istanbul before going to school in Canterbury, making one hell of an impression with his short films especially Sandik (The Chest), 2007 selection for London’s FrightFest. The short (which you can see, along with all of his shorts, on Evrenol’s personal website) is bite size, full of gore, and filled with mystery despite being extremely simplistic (and bound to piss off people in the best of ways). His other shorts, especially To My Mother and Father and the original short Baskin, are full of raw potential that you want to see in debut work. From the scant interviews I was able to find of Evrenol he describes how this type of genre filmmaking is relatively new in Turkey, so seeing his work, out of the gate, be full of in your face no holds barred content that is deeply rooted into a culture and society that is completely new to this small town kid from Texas. But within that culture divide, familiarities emerge. Take for instance in Baskin, toads are a powerful image in the film and while folklorically I was unaware of their history in Turkey, the symbol’s power was clear because of our own deeply rooted folk legends.

Evrenol’s most recent film, Housewife, made its US debut in Brooklyn last year to stellar reviews (my two cents). In Housewife, Evrenol’s influences become more and more obvious, but that’s not a detraction. Maybe it has something to do with it being his first English language film, or maybe because the plot is a far more linear narrative than the surrealism we were accustomed to in Baskin, but Evrenol’s streamlined mix of originality and reverent influences are more electric than ever.

No one makes ‘em like they used to. For fans of Fulci and Bava, no one make em like that anymore at all. Though his body of work is small, Can Evrenol has already proven himself one of the most powerful,  unique, revelatory voices of our generation. I’ll leave you with this: if you ever got to that final climax in Suspiria and thought “Well fuck, can’t I just have 90m of this?”, then please. Watch the work by Can Evrenol. You will not be disappointed.

Jacob Trussell