Those crazy Turks and their oddball horror ripoffs, right?!?!
Well, maybe you don’t know much about Turkish horror and that’s okay. Long before they scared the shit out of us all with Baskin, they simply shit on us all with their awful “remakes” of popular American horror films.
Over at one of the other 37 sites I write for (I think it’s only 4, but it feels like 37), I discussed this weird practice from the 50s through the 80s where the Turks ripped off the US horror greats. In an article entitled “I’m Not a Chicken, You’re A Turkey: A Turkish Horror Primer” (I know, I’m a cheeseball, but I love my puns… and my 80s TMNT commercial references), I highlight films including Drakula İstanbul’da, Badi, and Çöl (the Turkish versions of Dracula, ET, and Jaws, respectively). However, there is only one crowning jewel of the Turkish ripoff-horror crown and that is 1974’s Şeytan, Turkey’s answer to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, released less than a year after the religious horror classic.
Şeytan is an interesting film for all types of reasons, not least of which is that it is an awful, awkward clunker of a film. First of all, Turkey’s population predominantly practice Islam; thus, the filmmakers replaced Father Karras with a psychiatrist and removed all Catholic iconography. This, of course, complicates the plot of a movie that is supposed to be so intrinsically rooted in Catholicism. Trying to translate this incredibly Catholic experience directly rather than applying the spirit of The Exorcist to Muslim tradition results in a film that could generously be considered “a mess.” Some of the more profane and effective scenes are completely ignored, thus negating much of the film’s effectiveness. While applying the idea of possession to a Muslim context could have provided a unique and, perhaps even, fantastic film (i.e., creating a story of djinn possession based on evidence in the Qur’an and Islamic folklore), failure to actually utilize Turkish religious customs keeps this film’s basic conceit as utterly ridiculous and completely unable to actually “work” in virtually any way.
The music is all ripped from other films, including the main theme of The Exorcist, “Tubular Bells,” being used nearly a dozen times. This isn’t necessarily an issue, as compared to the numerous other, larger issues the film suffers from. However, it is worth noting that even the things that aren’t awful about this film are still not worthy of giving the filmmakers much, if any, credit.
The acting is… well… bad. The little girl playing the Reagan part isn’t awful, but outside of her, everyone is incredible bad. She, at least, uses creepy facial expressions and throws her body around without any tentativeness. The rest of the cast is rarely believable in their respective roles at all.
Also laughable is the translation in the subtitling of the film despite this being what seems to be the official US released version of the film. Broken English is probably expected from time to time, but there are many moments where the subtitles contain a string of words that make no sense together at all. There are even moments where there are random markings of “(?)” and “(!)” which almost seem to be notes the translators made for themselves and forgot to remove. Ultimately, the subtitles only make the film marginally more understandable than if watched without them. [Editor’s Note: The subtitles refer to the US Release version and could differ depending on release].
All in all, this pile of demonic vomit is actually a ton of fun. It’s awful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also awfully enjoyable to watch. There are a few spans of dullness, but it’s mostly full of ridiculous moments that are a blast. Most of its fun comes from that “so bad it sounds good” territory, where supposed serious moments are laugh-out-loud hilarious and the amateurish filmmaking leads to a desire to cheer rather than jeer. Scenes that invoke legitimate horror in the original film instead elicit big belly laughs and applause in this remake. The film is the type of endearing entertainment you make expect to see from a teenage filmmaker playing around after school with a Super VHS and a group of friends. Even the makeup of the main character was smiles and guffaws rather than the type of terror you feel when you see a realistic degradation of Reagan’s body in The Exorcist. It’s hard not to smile, laugh, and enjoy yourself when watching this insanity.
So, head over to Fandor and fire this film up, just don’t expect Captain Howdy, this film has Captain Lerson instead.