It’s always cool to find an obscurity, a genuine curio that is just bizarre enough to merit a nod in the “take this platter for a spin” column. Such is indeed the case with the recent DVD release of NACIYE, a 2015 horror flick, now available from the cartel at Shami Media Group.
WTF is NACIYE (don’t say it, sneeze it), you ask? Why haven’t I heard of it? Good questions. The answers are likely because it’s a Turkish terror tale, written, edited and directed by newbie Lutfu Emre Cicek. For an early work, the pic is certainly impressive, albeit no great movie classic — but definitely interesting enough to watch this dude’s future output (prior to this feature, he won an award for his acclaimed 2011 short Mac and Cheese).
The movie, which owes much to its American counterparts (a tincture of Saw, a pinch of Wrong Turn, a serrated jab at Texas Chainsaw, plus approving glances to foreigners Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci) follows the nightmarish results of booking a country manor in the boonies of some remote Turkish village. The home, rented to those who can afford it, is the property of Naciye, being part of her family for generations. The main problem is that it’s sorta like Colorado’s Overlook resort, with the same Roach Motel credentials: once you check in, you never check out.
Naciye, on the surface, a kindly, middle-aged woman, is in actuality a ruthless, sadistic psychopath very much into gutting, garroting, hanging, vivisecting and otherwise amputating appendages from loving families who unwisely chose to spend some quality time at her residence (she also refuses to leave the premises, once the property is sublet; confrontation regarding this matter is generally what sets her off). Flashbacks show us fifty years of unlucky folks, the unluckiest being her own dysfunctional brood. A victim of pedophilia and torture (think of the Bates clan siring Rhoda Penmark), Naciye ultimately did away with her trash parents, eventually cohabitating with her brother cum lover/husband. In-c’est la vie!
While the admittedly slow-moving 78-minute sickie has enough holes to drive a dizel tren through it (primarily, why haven’t the friends/relatives/employers/employees/teachers/bill collectors, etc., ever launched an investigation into decades of missing families?), there’s a plethora of nifty stuff to almost balance the narrative out. Almost (did I mention that even the local real-estate honchos never question why their agent disappeared?).
What Cicek lacks in logic, he makes up with oodles of atmosphere and creepy cinemascope visuals (nicely realized by d.p. Kamil Satir, and aided by Zafer Aslan’s tingly score). The Shami anamorphic DVD looks and sounds pretty good (a bit murky here and there with a couple of splotches that may be in the original elements) and mercifully presents its English subtitles in legible text.
What fuels the latest atrocities at nasty Naciye’s is the arrival of a young, happening (do we still say that?), trendy couple Bertan and Bengi (Gorkem Mertsoz, Esin Harvey). Just married and already expecting a bundle of joy, their union is unfortunately rife with angst, disillusionment and distrust (Bengi has possibly taken a lover at her job, and hubby is understandably not pleased about that); Bertan is also not too thrilled about impending parenthood. Insult to injury, Bengi’s swanky job is causing her stress (she’s actually fainting at the fashionable bar where her fellow players hang out at when, as the song goes, “the five o’clock whistle blows”).
So Bertan takes drastic measures and books a peaceful sojourn in the country, much to the very urban Bengi’s chagrin. And from there you can fill in the blanks (dead and breakfast, Turkish blood bath…); suffice to say, it does not end well.
What intrigued me most about NACIYE are the little touches of freakish culture. While the bustling Turkish metropolis Bertan and Bengi hail from could pass for midtown Manhattan, the rural outback is like something out of 1885, or, at least 1930s Hollywood’s version of Transylvania. Modern technology is evident via cellphones, yet all the vehicles are horse-drawn. It’s a genuinely outrageous, quirky jab (although, not knowing much about countrified Turkey, that could be the actual case, but I’ll chalk that up to Cicek’s ingenuity – mostly, because I want to).
And then, of course, there are the performances, definitely a necessity to make this kind of stuff work. And they’re fairly successful, with Harvey’s being a contender for Eastern Euro scream queen du jour. The majority of the kudos, natch, goes to Naciye herself, renowned veteran actress Derya Alabora. She is a formidable presence in the revived Baby Jane stakes (although nowhere near the match for Marlyn Mason in Besetment).
All in all, the uneven NACIYE package has more pros than cons, and, thus, I say to all fright collectors: give it a shot. It won’t knock Halloween out of the pantheon, but it’s authentically strange enough to recommend adding it to those devoted to building an eclectic horror library.
NACIYE. Color. Widescreen [2.40:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 2.0 stereo-surround [Turkish w/English subtitles]. Shami Media Group. CAT # SMI-0195. SRP: $9.99 [or on HD VOD for $2.99 through Amazon].