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14.09.2015 19:55 News >> 'Dabbe 6': How Horror Turns Into Frenzied Laughter

'Dabbe 6': How Horror Turns Into Frenzied Laughter

Yesterday I went to a screening of Turkish horror director Hasan Karacadağ's newest offering, “Dabbe 6.” As you can guess it's the sixth film in the director's nationally phenomenal Dabbe series, which began in 2006. The first film, released in only 80 theaters, sold approximately 540,000 tickets and.

Yesterday I went to a screening of Turkish horror director Hasan Karacadağ's newest offering, “Dabbe 6.” As you can guess it's the sixth film in the director's nationally phenomenal Dabbe series, which began in 2006. The first film, released in only 80 theaters, sold approximately 540,000 tickets and became a box-office success. It instantly became a cult classic, probably because it was the first locally produced film in this genre.

Unlike Western horror films, which mainly deal with the devil and its cohorts, “Dabbe” -- and many local horror films that later tried to achieve its financial success -- deal with the phenomenon of jinns, those horrible little creatures that infest Muslim superstition and have the potential to scare the living daylights out of us thanks to their lore. But, whatever its source material, the horror film is a genre that requires specific craftsmanship in creating suspense, thrills, gores and shock value.

I haven't watched any of the sequels in between the first “Dabbe” -- which qualifies as a B-movie with low-production values -- and the most recent. So, after so many years, I was rather excited to see the latest endeavor since I assumed that Karacadağ and his crew must have mustered all the knowledge and skill to produce a shocker film that would be on par with something like “Rosemary's Baby.”

Boy, was I wrong! I soon realized that the crew was re-applying the same formula all over again; this is a B-movie with low-production values, mediocre special effects and a storyline that repeats itself over and over again, and at times becomes so unconvincing that the audience doesn't need to suspend their disbelief for even one moment. Furthermore, the film is 160 minutes long -- almost as long as Nuri Bilge Ceylan's “Winter Sleep.”

The story is simple: Zeren, a rich cardiologist who lives on the outskirts of Muğla, is shocked to find out that her mother Mukadder dies horribly in her sleep one night and her little sister Ayla witnesses the death. Zeren brings Ayla to her stately home to recover, but it turns out that the girl believes it was a jinn who killed their mom. Zeren and her cheating hubby don't initially believe the girl, thinking it's some kind of traumatic defense mechanism that can be explained neurologically. But we know the girl is right, since we were subjected to a prologue where an unidentified woman casts an evil spell on Mukadder and her family by summoning the “Cuhennas,” the worst jinn clan possible, dating back to the Assyrians.

The first 80 minutes of the film are relegated to poor Ayla constantly being tortured by the jinns. Several sequences related to a shared nightmare between the sisters is rather interesting, but the lack of progression in the story and repetitive assaults makes you wonder whether the actors themselves are getting bored.

The second half focuses on solving the mystery of the anonymous evil spell-caster with the help of a psychiatrist who also happens to be a jinn expert. Talk about science and superstition working hand in hand! I was curious as to how the national psychiatric board hadn't revoked the guy's license.

Here's the catch, though -- the film was playing to a full house of young people, and although no one was frightened or screaming they seemed to be enjoying the run-of-the-mill gore as they chortled and guffawed. Laughter is the key word here as they weren't laughing with the film but actually laughing at it. It was at that point that I almost understood why the loyal fans of the Dabbe series might be so keen on the brand -- the films provide a unique a la Turca escape from the reality of our country by providing a different sort of catharsis immersed in the satire of the grotesque and macabre.

Let's face it, Karacadağ and his crew are nowhere near the machinations of Western horror or slasher flicks, but they've found a totally new niche in the form of exploitation of local superstitions and an understanding that local audiences are looking for something else from the Turkish horror genre: bad acting, make-up that walks a thin line between the absurd and the monstrous, plodding storylines the speed of turtles, and a mixture of every possible directorial style ranging from the suspense of Roman Polanski to the found-footage style synonymous with 1999s “The Blair Witch Project.”

It's like a potluck day gone out of control where the host never changes -- a fragile young girl who's possessed by a jinn. But hey, the guests keep showing up because somewhere deep down, Dabbe's makers know the very psyche of its geographical demographic -- viewers who yearn for a cathartic release of frenzied laughter.

EMİNE YILDIRIM, İSTANBUL (Cihan/Today's Zaman)



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