Friday, August 19, 2011

Seytan (1974)

Rip-offs are among the best inside the proud exploitation-tradition we have in the art of film. They special thing with Seytan is that I would hesitate to call it a rip-off, it’s more of a pure and simple scene-for-scene remake of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Actually to that degree that it becomes a quite effective little shocker on it’s own, just cheaper and cruder. Director Metin Erksan was one of the more respected and serious drama-directors of his generations, one of the first to treat moving pictures as art and not just entertainment. He didn’t work many more years after this one, and the lack of artistic integrity and originality here could be one explanation. But it’s wrong to dismiss Seytan as a cheap knock-off…

The story is exactly like The Exorcist, so I will skip that part of my review. What I find very interesting is that instead of Christianity, Islam is the main religion here. This is of course a very logical detail, Turkey is mainly a Muslim country (over 90 % of the population is said to be Muslims), but it could have been easy to just go with the exact same story and make it even more “Hollywood”. I don’t have enough knowledge of Islamic traditions and beliefs to say what’s different here, but one great detail is the holy water being used by the exorcist in the end. Here it’s water from the Zamzam well, a holy well which was created by god himself a couple of thousand of years ago. It’s one of the holiest places in the Islamic religion and the water itself is sold all over the world and countless pilgrims are going there every year. This is one of many details, but the lack of good subtitles (more on that later) make a lot of it disappear in translation.

Seytan looks a lot cheaper than The Exorcist, with more primitive lighting and cramped sets, but Erksan and his team has made remarkable job to copy the original movie scene for scene, and even making the location look very similar – sometimes to the brink of getting me confused (which always happen when I watch Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers in that TV-movie…). It’s just too similar sometime, and it’s like watching alternate takes directed by the bastard evil twin of Friedkin during in-between the ordinary takes of the original movie. It’s still quite well-made and all the effects sequences are gross and disturbing. The girl playing Regan…sorry, “Gul” (Canan Perver) is doing a decent job and gives everything she got in the horror scenes. She have that innocent, annoying look, and lacks the weird sexual aura that Blair has, but she stabs herself in the crotch, vomits green goo and being a fucked-up little girl with the same energy as Linda Blair!

Substance, the bootleg-company, has released Seytan on a subtitled OK-looking DVD in the US. It’s sourced from a VHS, and is blurry and shabby – but I’ve seen a lot worse and I think it works fine watching it. No headache for me, something that always happens when I watch VHS-quality nowadays. The subtitles is alright, but the idiotic fuck who did them felt like writing small personal comments (he tells us too Google the Zamzam water for example) together with smiley’s and worthless notes that he/she don’t understand everything the actors are saying. The “The End” sign comes with the text “Finally!”, like the whole movie had been a pain watching and now it’s finally over and we can watch Transformers 3 instead.

But I’ll recommend the bootleg, at least until there’s an official version out with hopefully a better-looking mastertape. It’s a good “rip-off”, for what it’s worth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not a huge fan of this one. It lacks scary moments, and the girl is robotic. The scene when she makes the furniture move around is hilariously funny cause it´s sloooow.
I think it´s quite sad that directors had to make movies like these. I would rather see something original from Turkey from that time. Don´t care what genre, anything would do.