Seytan (The Turkish Exorcist, 1974)

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema and my Exorcist Rip-Off Month!

Say!  Remember last week when I said that I couldn’t just write about The Exorcist because I’d probably be run out of town for having a blog called B-Movie Enema and doing movies that aren’t just A movies in money, but also in quality?  Yeah, well fuck that.  I found a way to do it.

For this week’s movie, I’ll be digging right into the shitty bowels of 1974’s Seytan from Turkey.  Seytan is pretty much a direct copy of William Friedkin’s masterpiece The Exorcist in just about every way it possibly can be.  It’s a little shorter, but I remember the first time I ever saw Seytan, I kept looking at the screen and thinking…  “Is the audio just fucked on this movie, or what?”

I don’t want to belabor this point, but can you believe that this is B-Movie Enema’s 237th post (that is not an exaggeration), and this is the FIRST TIME a Turkish movie has appeared?  Not that Star Wars one.  Not the Captain America one.  Not an E.T. one.  Shit… I’ve not even done Karate Girl – which is the one that has that incredible death scene that has been shared across YouTube like a billion times now.  None of those have appeared on this blog.  I break that mold today with Seytan – which might or might not be a great idea.

Let’s talk a little bit about Turkish cinema.  For the most part, most of what we know over here are the rip offs they made.  However, that’s not exactly fair.  Yes, there is such a thing as “Turksploitation”, but Turkey has had a long history of admiration for film.  The first film ever shown in the country was shown in the Ottoman Empire in 1896.  Turkey’s first film of its own was a documentary made in 1914.

Their industry would rise over the decades until the peak of the Turkish film industry came in 1972.  That year, 300 films were made.  That golden age of Turkish film began to quickly subside in the 1970s with the rising costs to produce the films and the lack of the raw material needed to continue working on the films.  Not only that, but home entertainment was becoming more widespread.  It wouldn’t be until the very early 21st century when the Turkish film industry began to bounce back.

But enough about that…  Let’s get to this near shot-for-shot remake of a true American classic!

The copy of the movie I am working from is translated with subtitles.  However, I do like that the person who translated it seems to be okay with Turkish, but also admits that the language used by the actors is funny so converting it wasn’t easy.  That means two things.  First, there are going to be goofy sentences in this movie.  Second, the person translating this is perfectly fine with Turkish, but not so cool with dialect and regional terms.  For some reason that strikes me funny.

Anyway, the movie opens and uses “Tubular Bells” for the music.  Now I’m in the Exorcist mood!  There’s also this cool close up of a statue or carving of Satan that at least looks like the Pazuzu statue that Max Von Sydow found in Iraq.  Sure enough, there’s a similar excavation being done in a desert with an older holy man.  He finds a stone or bronze trinket of that face.  Naturally, not too far away the holy man sees a devilish statue.  I have no reason to not believe this is basically the same type of fertility entity or whatever Pazuzu is.

Cut to the home of the mother and little girl who will be menaced by this demon/entity.  The mother is awoken while napping on the couch by bizarre noises.  She checks on her daughter to see she is sleeping peacefully but the noises are happening directly over the girl’s bedroom.  The girl’s name is Gul.  I believe her mother’s last name is Ayten, but their live-in nanny and home school teacher is Suzan.  So I at last know that.

The next day, Ms. Ayten tells her house staff to set rat traps to get rid of whatever it is that is causing so much rustling noise in the ceiling and attic.  The butler doesn’t seem to think that is what’s up there, but she tells him to get fucked and do what she says (I’m paraphrasing from my own complete unknowledge of the Turkish language).  Gul seems pretty well adjusted and not at all likely to spew goopy vomit all over the place in just a little bit.

I mean… You guys also speak like this to your elderly mothers too, right?  Right?

Elsewhere, a guy is reading excerpts from a book by a guy named Tugrul.  He is our younger priest struggling with a sick elderly mother character.  While this is a very faithful adaptation of The Exorcist, this movie is shorter and has a few slightly different beats, moments, and shots, but dammit if it isn’t really trying to stay as faithful as possible.  While Gul and Suzan are having a ballet lesson, Ms. Ayten finds a Ouiji board and Gul cops to it being hers and that she communicates with a guy named Captain Lersen.  Lersen does not heed Gul’s summons to speak to her mother, so sexy mommy just thinks this is all the fun and games of a little girl.

That night, Ms. Ayten tries to call Gul’s father, but she is fairly unsuccessful due to reception for the long distance call.  She’s quite angry and goes into a bit of a rant about how everyone of these men she is speaking with to get connected to her ex-husband should go to hell and being a pain her her ass.  Gul, though, has been woken up and overhears this.  Later, Ms. Ayten wakes up in bed to find Gul sleeping next to her because she couldn’t get any rest due to her bed shaking and all that.  Just then they hear something in the attic and Ms. Ayten goes to check it out.  In the attic, she doesn’t see anything that would cause the skittering sounds, but she does find Tugrul’s book called Seytan.  It’s about psychiatric treatment for those who are seemingly possessed or acting in ways people think these people are possessed.

Elsewhere, Tugrul and his uncle go to visit dear pretty mommy who has been committed to a mental institution.  Mommy is in a pretty bad situation.  He’s already stressed about it being a mental institution, but his guilt is not eased by his mother asking him why he had her sent to such a dreadful place.

Back at the house, Ms. McMilfypants is asking all the help about who stashed that Seytan book in the attic.  No one cops to it.  My favorite two responses comes from the cook who says, “You know I don’t like books” and the maid who smiles courteously and says, “It’s not mine. You know I can’t read.”  Let’s hang on that moment for a second, shall we?  Turkey isn’t exactly a third world country.  At least I don’t think it has ever been classified as such.  A gainfully employed, normal looking, youngish, 20-something girl says she can’t read and isn’t upset by that.  That, to me, is fascinating.  I originally typed “bonkers” but then again, different culture, I suppose.  Still, though, at least in the mid-70s, there are women in, what I would assume to be, the middle class and working and what have you, who do not know how to read.

Alright.  So things are a touch sped up here.  Next we already see Tugrul burying his long-suffering mother.  I assume the last time he saw his mother alive was when she was asking him why he took her to the loony bin because he seems to be still grappling with a little bit of guilt over that last interaction.  But now it’s time for a relatively famous scene from the original to be played out in this remake.

Ms. Ayten is having a party.  We see Gul have a bit of a fight with Ms. Ayten’s current boyfriend, Ekram.  She comes over and eases the tensions and asks her well-read boyfriend about the book Seytan.  He knows who wrote it and what his basic credentials are.  Later, while Ekram plays the piano for the guests, Gul comes down from her room and stands at the base of one of the flights of stairs and stares emotionless before peeing something green.  This understandably upsets Ms. Ayten and her guests.  While Ms. Ayten bathes Gul and gives her medicine to help her feel better, Gul asks what could possibly be wrong with her.  Gul is sent to bed but screams when her bed causes her to convulse and bounce on it.

Meanwhile, Tugrul is wrecked with guilt over how much his mother suffered for him to have an education and have the life he led and for him only to leave her to die alone.  He is even haunted by dreams of her.  Speaking of haunted, Gul is taken to the hospital to be looked at for the issues she is experiencing.  The doctor concludes that Gul has a massive electrochemical defect in her brain.  Despite Ms. Ayten’s protests, he tells her they need to do surgery to remove the defect.  The same torturous scene from Friedkin’s The Exorcist plays out here with the little girl being subjected to very difficult examinations and x-rays of her skull – all revealing nothing out of the ordinary.

Ms. Ayten calls the doctor panicked and worried because, now, Gul is convulsing awkwardly and cannot stop.

Worse, when she finally stops, she starts making horrible sounds and a lump forms in her throat.  When she sits up, she calls the doctor a bastard and practically tosses him across the room.  She is eventually subdued and given a sedative.  The doctor is still like, “Yeah, this is all brain shit happening.”  Ms. Ayten is not impressed – nor am I at this doctor’s diagnosis.  She still agrees to have them check Gul’s spinal cord for damage and to administer shock treatment.

I will say one thing – most of the scenes recreated from the original film are fairly easily accomplished.  I don’t think it would necessarily take too much to at least somewhat competently reshoot several of the sequences in The Exorcist.  However, the hospital scenes are still difficult to watch.

Ms. Ayten comes home and finds the police and EMTs taking a dead man away near her home.  When she goes inside, the lights flicker unusually.  When she answers a ringing phone, no one is on the other end.  She goes upstairs to find Gul’s room cold due to an open window and Gul not well covered by blankets sort of implying that the girl or the entity possessing her had something to do with that dead body the police and EMTs were checking out.  Suzan comes home and says she left Ekram to care for Gul, but he was nowhere to be found… because he’s dead.  He was the body being removed by the authorities.

Gul is seen by a psychologist as per her doctor’s suggestion.  She is put under hypnosis to see what’s going on with her from a mental perspective.  He asks her if there’s anyone else inside her head with her.  She says sometimes there is.  She’s also quite scared.  The psychiatrist tries to communicate with the other personality inside Gul.  She punches him in the balls.

Ball punching is universal in every language, Enemaniacs.

It’s not long before Tugrul is sought out by the police to ask him some questions regarding some of his findings in Seytan.  The detective trying to figure out how Ekram could have died as he did and this leads him to a long staircase that just so happens to be real close to where Gul lives.  This detective wants to interview Gul because, while he cannot say that Ekram’s death was a murder, he also can’t ignore the fact that Ekram was found with his head twisted around and was likely thrown from Gul’s room by a very strong person.  He asks Ms. Ayten to ask her if Gul remembers the night of Ekram’s death, but, instead of simply saying she would, she keeps insisting Gul will not remember.

As soon as the detective leaves, Ms. Ayten and Suzan hear Gul screaming.  When Ms. Ayten gets upstairs to Gul’s room, she sees her daughter stabbing herself in the vagoozle with a ritualistic dagger that has a carving of a devil at the end.  Mom is able to wrestle the idol away from Gul but not before being thrown back and scratched on the face.  Soon, everything goes off the rails.  Gul moves furniture to slam into her mother, and then…

This is what I call the Possession Movie Moneyshot.  After The Exorcist, you had to have something that contorts a poor young person or else!

Ms. Ayten contacts Tugrul and they meet.  He needs to see her to see if she has the usual psychiatric traits or the usual markers that he’s written about.  He agrees to go to Gul and, when he goes into the girl’s bedroom, she is much more cut up and  gnarly looking.  Gul continuously states she is the Devil.  She also knows the name of his mother, but instead of telling him his mother’s full name, she just spits a big glob of goopy shit onto his face.

Tugrul tells Ms. Ayten that she must put Gul into a mental hospital.  He needs to remove all doubt before he can start the exorcism.  The next time he goes to Gul, she says she looks forward to him just starting the exorcism.  She’s not afraid of the ritual because it will allow for this entity to join with Tugrul.  It’s at this point, Ms. Ayten reveals she does believe that Ekram was thrown from the window by Gul.

Tugrul takes the recordings he made of an interview he held with Gul to a linguist.  He believes she is speaking some sort of dead language, but the lady studying the tape with him makes an astonishing claim:

While that revelation makes it hard to believe that Gul is truly possessed, it is an incredible feat for a young girl to pull off.  As he continues to study the tape, he gets a call from Ms. Ayten and he goes over to their house to find that the words “Help Me” are inscribed in Gul’s stomach.  At this point, Tugrul is left with no other option than to find someone who can perform a Rite of Exorcism and the local church sends for the old man from the beginning to confront whatever is inside Gul.

The final act of this movie plays out very similarly to The Exorcist.  The old man with all the experience shows up to do battle with the entity that is possessing the little girl.  The old man’s opening salvo is the holy water.  It seems quite effective as it forces the girl to writhe in pain.  I’m not so sure his sermons are doing much for the cause.  Before going upstairs, the old man does warn that Tugrul must not speak to the demon for the devil will spin many lies.

Of course, just as in the original film, the battle between the old priest and the devil ends with the old man dying.  Tugrul is then left to try to physically confront the entity.  What is not quite the same as the original movie, just before Tugrul is forced to fight the demon that leads to him throwing himself out of the window to his own death, the detective does not witness this from outside, but comes inside trying to get Ekram’s murder solved.  He learns from Tugrul before he dies that he was not pushed from the window but he jumped.  Regardless, Gul is back to normal and the detective tells Ms. Ayten that she’s doing the right thing to not tell her anything that happened because it would just be bad for her to know the grisly details.

This is much, much better made than some of the more infamous Turksploitation films like the “Turkish Star Wars” and others.  This is at least trying to explore some of the same themes of the original film.  I’m curious how it was received over there upon release.  Of course, we know The Exorcist to be one of the finest horror films ever made, but, for as closely as this film follows that original, it doesn’t match every single scene or circumstance.  Tugrul is not a priest like Karras was in the original.  He’s just an author and a non-believer which takes away some of that more heroic sacrifice that Karras made to kill himself to ultimately defeat Pazuzu.

All the key plot points are here, though.  This reminds me of something my brothers had when they were growing up in the 70s.  Back then, you didn’t have VCRs to rent movies and rewatch them whenever you want.  Cable didn’t come along for the majority of the country until the late 70s and early 80s.  In order to enjoy a movie multiple times, you had to buy these 8mm films.  My brothers had a projector (as well as a Super 8 camera), so they could get things like Star Wars or other films like that.  The thing is, in order for this to be affordable, the films were heavily condensed into just a single reel.  If there were any situations in which it was longer than a single reel of 8mm film, it still wouldn’t be a full movie’s length.

My point is this is what Seytan feels like.  While not terribly short, the movie does move with a blistering pace unlike the original.  The original carefully laid out the pieces onto the board and we get to spend lots of quiet moments with all the characters to understand their motivations, their own personal demons, etc.  This one either cuts out whole segments of those moments or compresses several of those ideas into much fewer scenes.  Either way, this is not what you’d normally think of when you watch a Turkish remake of a film from the west and really shouldn’t be too derided.

Next time, we come back to the states for one of the more appreciated Exorcist rip-offs.  It’s the blaxploitation classic Abby!

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