Part of the charm of watching Turkish knock-offs is that they rarely, if ever, come subtitled. Watching them, you have no idea what is happening. You’re often left with the vaguest notion that familiar characters from better known Hollywood movies are doing very strange things for mysterious reasons and that’s alright. However, I managed to find a subtitled copy of Seytan, better known to the west as Turkish Exorcist, and found that the subtitles don’t clear anything up.
Now, I cut Son Osmanli, which I called Turkish Indiana Jones, some slack because it was a genuinely good movie with real production values, good actors and exciting action. It’s about time I stopped screwing around and addressed the category of movies that really belong here. File it away with Turkish Star Wars, Turkish ET, Turkish Wizard of Oz, Turkish Spiderman, Turkish Superman and so on and so forth. This rip off is a real piece of shit. A near shot for shot plagiarism. It wins crazy points for taking a uniquely Catholic-fear fueled concept an putting a Muslim spin on it.
If you’ve seen The Exorcist then it won’t come as a surprise to you that this is nearly shot for shot. We begin in the desert as the Exorcist and his archaeological crew dig up some satanic knic-knacs. A little further out in the desert, the Exorcist comes face to face with the devil, or at best a paper mache approximation of the devil, complete with glowing red eyes. Like most Turkish movies, the direction has a tendency to linger too long on shots. We cut back and forth between the shitty devil puppet and the Exorcist’s mildly upset facial expression. Cut to Istanbul.
A rich, cold as ice bitch of a mother lives with her home-schooled daughter who enjoys making sculptures of… I don’t know. Something. Things. I couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be. Mom is kind of disturbed by them but puts on that good parent face about it and compliments her. Daughter, named Gul, sucks at math, though. Mother later finds out that her daughter is playing with a ouija board that doesn’t look like any ouija board I’ve ever seen. Here, it’s as if the Turkish don’t quite understand why playing with a ouija board alone is so frightening or what a ouija board is at all, for that matter. Here in the west, it’s understood that you’re not supposed to play by yourself because we’re a superstitious, Christianized lot that buys this kind of shit. Islam must not have this sort of thing. Mother is simply confused that Gul would play by herself. At this point, we learn that she doesn’t. She’s joined by a spirit named Captain Lersen and he tells her all kinds of crazy shit.
Like in The Real Exorcist, the house is plagued by sounds coming from the attic so Mother goes to check it out. Once in the attic, she discovers a mysterious book called Seytan. It’s really a psychological study about exorcisms. Or something. Of course, it says Seytan, so Mom freaks out and grills the house staff about it. Thankfully we’re due for a little comic relief here and the house staff replies with casual statements such as, “I don’t like books” and, “I can’t read.”
There are several characters happening here and we’re whisked away to introduce some of the other players in the game. Since this is Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation, the movie goes to great lengths to avoid the Catholic angle and rather than our Father Karras character being a priest, he’s a psychologist and the author of the book found in Mom’s attic. Crazy coincidence! Turns out his old mother is either going crazy or is very sick, so he puts her up in a crazy house and then she dies.
Back to Mother and Gul. Gul is starting to show signs of being possessed. The birthday party pee pants scene is here and so is the bouncing bed. Mother, terrified, takes Gul to the doctors who subject her to all manner of poking and prodding. For some reason, they jam a long needle into her neck and hang out while blood squirts out of the wound. They take some x-rays and send her home. When the x-rays turn up nothing, the doctors go to Mom’s house to see Gul. She does the bullfrog neck thing and despite the physical impossibility of just such an act, they still insists that Gul is nuts. So they take her in for a little shock therapy. We’re treated to a close-up scene of Gul’s head being smashed by a pair of pistons that are supposed to look like ECT shockers ala One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Instead of being scary. It’s hilarious. Still, nothing helps, though. Gul is losing it and the last ditch effort is to send a hypnotist over to try and talk to Captain Lersen. Gul winds up decking him in the nuts for a little more comic relief. I’m not kidding. Capital of Thailand. Bang-cock.
Someone named Ekrem dies outside of Mother’s house and the police investigate. While the doctors, no matter what crazy shit they see Gul do, will not accept that the devil is up in her shit, however, the cops’ first instinct is that only the devil could breaks a man’s neck like Ekrem’s was. The lead investigator, contacts the Psychologist, and tells him that the girl is probably possessed and suggests, through subtlety, that he go check her out. The cop then shows up at Mother’s house and makes the same sly suggestion that the girl is possessed. Seconds after he leaves, Gul stats screaming and Mother goes upstairs to find her stabbing herself in the crotch with a letter opener that has the devil’s head on the handle. Shit goes haywire here. The room starts rumbling and the furniture slowly rolls out to attack Mother. You can see the people behind the furniture pushing it.
Finally, the Psychologist shows up and starts talking to the devil, who sounds like an old man who smokes a lot. The exchange between Psychologist and Gul is very similar to the the Karras/Legion conversation in The Real Exorcist. “If you’re the devil, untie yourself”, “That would be a vulgar display of power.” blah blah blah. Finally, here’s some pea soup in your face. Get ready, though, the Turks loved this scene apparently and there’s two more demon puke scenes. Unfortunately, it’s not as epic as the Friedkin version. Here, it’s more like a baby spit up on the guy’s face. Just a quick belch of vomit and it’s over.
If the movie wasn’t entertaining enough, the subtitles even start bagging on the movie. There are little comments scattered throughout that illustrate the absurdity of what you’re watching and at one point, rather than explain what Zam Zam Water is, they just tell you to Google it. It’s Muslim holy water, by the way. It goes on and on like this with excruciating, long scenes of dialog between the Psychologist and the Devil until they can’t avoid the religious angle anymore and the Exorcist from the beginning of the movie shows up like Father Merrin does.
Finally, after an hour of foolishness, the exorcism begins. It mostly consists of the imam throwing holy water on Gul and calling the Devil a bunch of stupid names. His chest is puffed up and he belows while the shots cut back to Gul, tied to the bed, growling. This happens for, like, thirty minutes before Gul pukes on the Exorcist and then pukes on herself. There is the familiar levitation scene, replicated here and like the transposition of the devil statue from the beginning, the paper mache devil appears out of nowhere as Gul worships it by bowing with her arms outstretched. Comic relief? Certainly not intentionally. The best is still yet to come, though. Eventually the Psychologist and the Exorcist take a few to gather their strength and wash the vomit off. The Exorcist goes back in for another round but when the Psychologist goes back in, he finds the Exorcist laying dead on the floor. At some point, I guess he died. Infuriated, the Psychologist begins beating Gul up and trying to strangle her. Early on the in the movie, I suspected something like this would happen. I’ve seen a few of these movies and when you’re struck with a strange thought such as: I bet this grown man will wind up beating the little girl up, you’re probably right. Turkish movies just work out that way. Like several scenes, we’re treated to shots that are awkward and overstay their welcome. Psychologist tries to strangle Gul and we get these weird attacker/victim POV shots where all you see are their empty hands stretched out at you while they make weird faces and grunt. Finally, the Psychologist gets up and hurls himself out the window, where he falls down the stairs to his death. Or did he? For some reason, the cop shows up out of the blue and goes down to Psychologist’s bleeding, mangled corpse and interrogates him before he dies for real.
Gul’s okay, though. All they had to do was strangle the devil out of her, apparently.
As far as Turkish rips go, this one isn’t as bad as Turkish Star Wars. It’s plagiarism and that uniquely Turkish brand of inept but they manage to weave all the characters and subplots into a halfway sane movie. I’d love to know more about this weird period of Turkish filmmaking because I’m wondering why people wouldn’t just go see the 1973 Exorcist when it came out. I can only assume that it didn’t play in Turkey and the only way to get it to the people was to steal everything and cast Turkish actors without the pervasive Catholic tones. With the exception of the final battle, religion plays a very minor role in this movie. They seem to go out of their way to avoid bringing any kind of religious angle into it. I don’t know much about Islam but I do know they have a devil character, I just don’t know if it plays any signifigant role in their faith. The Devil is used in Christian religion to keep people in line, but Muslims seem more afraid of vice and women than anything else.
I don’t know. The final word? Not as bad as most Turkish rip-offs but certainly not good by any stretch of the imagination. Culture clash makes western Catholic themes translate weird into Middle-Eastern Islamic culture. Seytan misses the point but not entirely because it was made by people who don’t know how to make movies, mostly because what scares Christians doesn’t scare Muslims.