Turkey, 2004
English title: The School

Director: Durul Taylan, Yagmur Taylan
Starring: Nehir Erdogan, Berk Hakman, Melisa Sozen, Sinem Kobal
IMDB: 4.7

While Okul is not a particularly twisted movie, nor particularly original - I had never seen a Turkish movie before, so was eager to see what their film industry could produce.

Guldem (played by the gorgeous Nehir Erdogan) is a high school student who smiled once at Gokalp, a fellow student, who subsequently develops an obsession for her. He begins writing stories for her every day, and leaving them for her to find.

Unfortunately her boyfriend Ersin (Berk Hakman) discovers one of the letters, and publicly humiliates the guy by reading it out loud in the schoolyard. Next thing you know, Gokalp is swan-diving to his death from one of the school's buildings.

Cut to exactly a year later, and Guldem and her bevy of hot friends start being haunted by strange visions and manifestations.

This allows the directors to include some interesting ideas including demons in mirrors, ghostly hallucinations, and even a cellphone seance. In one of the few scenes that distinguishes it from any other Hollywood flick of its type, is a nice looking Islamic scene in one character's religious-inspired hallucinations.

While the film has moments of suspense and horror, it also verges on parody at times. Treading this middle ground unfortunately reduces it's effectiveness as either one or the other - horror or comedy.

What you get, is a group of very good looking people running around and screaming a lot in the time-honoured horror/slasher tradition. But don't expect much more than a few light scares, let alone any slashing - there is next to no gore, and in what may be a first for a horror movie - no death either! Gorehounds and horror aficionados beware. There is also no nudity, except for one of the movie's weakest scenes where some American porn is shown on a screen.

Personally, I'm not a stickler for either gore or nudity, so this aspect was fine with me. What hurts the film more is the uneven comedy scenes - maybe if the film had played out more singularly as a horror movie it would've been more effective. However I hear this is Turkey's first horror movie, and as such kudos must be given for a pretty decent first attempt.

Adapted from a Turkish ghost novel, Okul is a competently made teen horror flick with a great performance from the main actress, and a few splashes of creativity thrown in. Its on the same level as most recent Hollywood teen horror movies, but doesn't add anything unique to the genre that would make non-Turkish speakers seek it out. Additionally, its middle-of-the-road approach makes it more suitable for teens than as a serious horror contender.

On a positive note, lead actress Nehir Erdogan was a standout and seems to be the complete package - possessing both the looks and acting ability to go far. Had she been born in the USA I'm sure she would be on the cover of every magazine by now, and inundated with film offers. As it is, she has only been in one other movie to date, four years after this one. The fact that her talents have been so under-utilised is a shame.

Also of note is the soundtrack, which features some great Turkish rock music. In summary, Okul is well worth checking out if you're a Turkish teen, or like me just keen to check out some Turkish cinema - otherwise it offers little new to the Western viewer (except perhaps for the spectacularly gorgeous Nehir).

Rating: 5.5/10

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Ventilation Shaft said...

I haven't seen this particular title or any of the modern day Turkish films. This will be a slightly off-topic comment having little to do with "Okul", but if you're interested in their cinematography you may want to check out their rip-offs of famous US blockbusters, from the 60's, 70's and 80's like S├╝permenler (Superman rip-off),
The Man Who Saves the World
(Star Wars ripoff),
Yarasa adam - Bedmen
(Batman & Robin), and such. Also, anything with Cuneyt Arkin - the Chuck Norris/James Bond of Turkey - is worth watching.

I mean, all of these are extremely cheesy and badly made films, but fun as hell. They're also a little hard to find so you may have to become a notorious criminal and search some torrent sites.

Anonymous said...

I recommend you to watch Nehir Erdogan's another film Broken Angel (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1002964/) She's really great in that film.

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