If you’ve seen BASKIN, Turkish director Can Evrenol’s 2015 debut about a group of police officers who get more than they bargained for after they respond to an emergency call, you might suspect that his childhood was pretty messed up. It’s a film layered with nightmarish occurrences admist a hellish landscape, one that garnered the director with a Best New Director award at Fantastic Fest as well as the director award at Morbido Fest.
With HOUSEWIFE, his latest grim descent into a blood-soaked Kafkaesque world that slithers into the subconscious with a Lovecraftian seduction, Can Evrenol once again reminds us why horror continues to be a cathartic experience. I was fortunate enough to take a moment with the director to discuss his new film, as well as what exactly lies within his macabre mind. Spoiler alert: his childhood was not messed up!
Nightmarish Conjurings: Both BASKIN and HOUSEWIFE open with a childhood trauma. Here, a 7-year-old girl witnesses the murder of her sister and father at the hands of her mother. Do you think horror acts as a greater coping mechanism than other genres?
Can Evrenol: You put it perfectly. I honestly think horror is the best way of being anti-status quo and coping with existential dread. I feel terrible when I see or witness a real act of violence in real life, but on the contrary I feel exhilarated when I see a well executed/or over the top act of violence in art. To me, it’s like making fun of (and coping with) life, and death.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Being born and raised in Instanbul, what kinds of horror films were you exposed to at an early age and which ones have stuck with you?
CE: I watched Robocop when I was 8, on a betamax rented from a supermarket nearby. Black and white gory Conan comics were sold on the corner of our street. Stephen King books were everywhere. And the only non-Turkish band on Turkish Top 10 best selling list was Metallica. Interestingly, while foreign horror was championed, local Turkish horror has always been almost non-existent and mostly a joke.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Throughout your film there are some exceptionally crafted nods to horror films, most notably Bava’s SHOCK in which you pay homage to a particularly jarring scare. In today’s horror landscape, what does scary mean to you?
CE: IT FOLLOWS, UNDER THE SHADOW, and HEREDITARY are really scary to me, from modern horror. TRAIN TO BUSAN is amazing horror action, and GET OUT is the darkest comedy ever.
Nightmarish Conjurings: There’s a lot of themes of recurring nightmares that feel Lovecraftian yet intimate and personal. Were any of these nightmares inspired by your own?
CE: I had a very happy childhood but I’ve always had terrible nightmares. I don’t know why. The fact that we know so little about the nature of dreaming fascinates me. You know that story the young cop tells Remzi the boss in that dreamy restaurant scene in BASKIN, that’s a true story that my father told me. When he was a teenager, his best friend passed away and the night he passed, my father says he came and shook his hand in his dream, saying “don’t be scared, it’s me.”
Nightmarish Conjurings: With HOUSEWIFE, as well as your contribution to the horror anthology FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL, in which you take on an evil djinn of childbirth, how does birth and creation filter into your creative process?
CE: It’s crazy that at the end of the same year we made HOUSEWIFE and our FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL segment with my wife, we also learned that she was pregnant! I was in the amazing horror film festival, Morbido, when she told me on the phone. The baby’s 4 months old now and he is not a djinn or demon, yet!
Birth is the beginning of everything, so probably that’s why I feel targeting that to my work is the best way to rebel against the ultimate, that is creation.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You mentioned before that making a movie requires you to “throw the dice on many things”. Given how BASKIN and HOUSEWIFE play by their own rules – both thematically and conceptually – what does that mean for your own vision?
CE: I try to do these films like a Rorschach test. I try to concentrate and plan as much as I can, and then pour my mind and heart and soul on the screen. I try to let my time in this world be reflected in my film. That’s why, most times I enjoy putting the atmosphere first, and story second. I trust my instincts a lot with the paste, music and the tone, where as I am not a great writer. But I’m trying to improve myself.
Nightmarish Conjurings: With FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL making its premiere coming up at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, what kind of film would you like to see yourself making next?
CE: I’m currently in post-production of my new feature film: THE GIRL WITH NO MOUTH. It’s a journey movie. Not R rated, but a dark children’s film. It follows four kids, with missing facial parts, running from hunters in a wasteland. It has a smaller budget than my first two films, and was shot in 18 days but it just might feel much bigger.
HOUSEWIFE is now available on VOD, Digital and DVD.