Monday, October 12, 2015

Screamfest LA ’15: Naciye

How scary can a middle aged woman with long knitting needles truly be? So maybe she is not a classic cinema bogeyman, but you would totally want to avoid her in real life. In this case, she happens to be Turkish, making her even scarier to Greeks. She refuses to leave the house she considers her home, despite having no legal rights. Like most squatters, she will do what it takes to get her way in Lutfu Emre Cicek’s Naciye (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Screamfest Horror Film Festival in Hollywood.

The hugely pregnant Bengi is a little surprised her husband Bertan decided to rent a stately old home off the Marmara Coast without telling her. Frankly, this does not seem like a good time for her to travel, but they make the trip to the Princess Islands anyway. Arriving late, they are rather put out to find their key is not where the rental agent promised. Of course, we know that is because Naciye already killed him good and dead.

Granted, Bengi is going out of her way to scold Bertan, but the house really looks suspiciously lived in. In fact, Bengi is convinced someone is inside. Before long, the cat-and-mouse commences, escalating lethally.

To be honest, Naciye is a lot like dozens of movies, but the Turkish setting somehow adds something. In Istanbul or any modern city, Naciye could never expect to hunker down indefinitely without expecting a constant stream of people asking after her victims and generally looking to clear her out of a prime piece of real estate. However, the provincial islands are a different story.

The house itself is also a triumph of location scouting and art design. Indeed, it looks grand during the day, but darkly ominous at night. It is also decked out with appropriately creepy bric-a-brac, like doilies and potpourri from Hell. Cinematographer Kamil Satir gives it all a suggestively sinister sheen. Unfortunately, Cicek badly mishandles the flashbacks, at the expense of narrative clarity and atmospheric cohesion. In one particularly egregious case, he jarringly introduces the late former tenants to no appreciable purpose (except maybe to pad out a comparatively short feature).

Still, Derya Alabora is impressively fierce and deranged as the title character. As Bengi, Esin Harvey seems genuinely exasperated with Gorkem Mertsoz’s clueless Bertan. If you do not object to scenes of a pregnant woman in jeopardy than Naciye is not bad for a squatter horror film, but its nothing you haven’t seen before. Yet, it is probably a good idea to encourage manifestations of Turkish modernity, exactly like horror movies with sex scenes, so it is maybe worth taking the time to catch Naciye when it screens this Thursday (10/15) at the TCL Chinese 6, as part of this year’s Screamfest LA.