Büyü (Review)


Nihat Ileri as Professor Hodja Ekrem
Özgü Namal as Sedef Ekrem
Dilek Serbest as Ceren
Ipek Tuzcuoglu as Ayse
Ebru Ürün as Zeynep
Ece Uslu as Ayden
Okan Yalabik as Cemil
Directed by Orhan Oguz

Watch Büyü and you will die, die, DIE!! Well, the theater will burn down! Okay, one theater, during opening night. And you might not die. In fact, no one died. But the movie is still cursed! Or not. Well, it sucks, so maybe it is cursed… Yes, the Opening Night Premiere truthfully ended in an inferno of the theater, but everyone got out okay. This fueled the curse speculation that lead to Büyü becoming a smash hit in Turkey. Note to self: burn down theater at premiere party for new independent film about a cursed film that burns down theaters in Turkey, make millions! Büyü is an attempt at some more serious horror, a shift away from Turkey’s history of goofy film. Instead, they borrow from some more obscure Western films and combine it with their own folk lore. Büyü, or Buyu as well call it from now on for ease of typing, translates to “Magic”, specifically Black Magic-type spells. The specific black magic is a ghost that slaughters a whole expedition of Turkish Archeologists, all of which but two are hot Turkish women. Turkey may have some problems, but their archeological departments must be funded to the hilt to attract all these hotties. Maybe they all think they’ll run into Harrison Ford or something. Some things never change in Turkish cinema, even back in the wild 1970’s and 1980’s they still packed their films full of bodacious babes, and the tradition lives on with Buyu and Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. Both films also have lots of blood and gore, another Turkish tradition. Some things have changed, though, for Buyu obviously is a more expensive offering than such cult films as Kilink or 3 Dev Adam, but it lacks the sense of fun and enjoyment those films offered. In that fact, Buyu is far much more of a failure than the Turkish Pop Cinema disasters that Turkey is better known for in the cult circles.

Character Roll Call:

Professor Hodja Ekrem – Dr. Ekrem is the leading Turkish expert in wandering around abandoned villages with a cadre of hot Turkish women, which is odd since he seems to be Sean Connery meets that crazy homeless guy on the bus who keeps ranting about weasles implanting a chip in his brain. Loses his head over his ghost infested daughter.
Ayse Yolen – Female, one of the best philologists in Turkey. (A philologist is a lover of words, in this case she studies their backgrounds through other languages) Married to Tarik and is our main character.
Sedef Ekrem – Dr. Ekrem’s daughter. Possessed by a ghost/djinn/witch and goes on a killing spree.
Ayden – Blonde member of expedition, raped by a ghost/djinn. Later killed by ghost-possessed Sedef. Should have called Bill Murray, lady!
Cemil – Male on the expedition who is not Dr. Ekrem, name is pronounced like “Jimmy”. He loses his head over some hot light-induced possessed sex.
Ceren – The woman on the expedition who talks on the phone to her fiancee constantly. Ghosts aren’t too keen on “Can you hear me now?” and she pays the price, and I don’t mean roaming fees.
Zeynep – Rival to Ayse, hates her for being perfect, stealing her man, and not being a vindictive drunk like Zeynep is. Her revenge is cut short due to her death by auto wreck.

We start out in the past, as a father dotes over his daughter while his suspicious wife grabs a book and some rocks and then visits the local witch lady. The local witch lady is pushing 120, and shows us what horrors old age can do to the female body, as she’s parading around topless! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This movie just became a true horror film! There is more sagging in the next few scenes than in the collective waistlines of a NASCAR audience. We never get a name for the old hag, so we’ll just call her Wicked Witch. Wicked Witch begins beating the now topless suspicious wife with a stick of thorns, making many small pricks in her skin. No, not as perverted as that sounds, despite the nudity and blood. Wicked Witch then beats herself as well, all while chanting some nonsense curse mumbo-jumbo, and gets blood samples from both her and the suspicious wife. Wicked Witch’s magic ritual then begins to make the still at home doting father become hot and agitated. He begins looking around for something while his daughter becomes sweaty as well. Is this an elaborate ceremony for a supernatural long distance sauna? The doting father finds what he was looking for: a knife, and heads to his daughter’s room, shutting the door ominously. What will happen? Some little girl throat slashing, that’s what! Suspicious wife smiles when she hears the cries of despair from the house as the doting father suddenly realizes what he’s just done.

Enough of that happy scene, we jump to a dinner party in Turkey that will serve as an introduction to all the main characters. Well, it should have, but it turns out to just introduce like three characters and the rest just sit around not saying much, basically being moving background scenery. Sure, there are some very slow sections later on that we can introduce these people at, but we could have just cut out all the slow and done everything here. It’s inefficient, like having a 23-part trilogy. The most important character is Professor Hodja Ekrem, a professor of Archeology and Anthropology and several other -ologies at Turkish U. (or wherever he teaches at) who will be leading an expedition to an abandoned town looking for the book written by the legendary Artuk ruler Salih Sultan. I did some research and have no idea which ruler this is supposed to be, as far as I know it could be any Artuk ruler: Artuq, Mehmed I of Great Seljuk, Najm ad-Din Ilgaazi ibn Artuq, or Sokman. I like to think it was Sokman, who’s name should be Sockman, the superhero with the nuclear powered socks! The character who will be playing the movie’s main female is Ayse Yolen, who is the wife of the couple that owns the apartment where the dinner party is taking place in. She is a leading expert in studying languages, including old languages. Her husband Tarik will not be accompanying her on the trip, and neither will be fellow guest Zeynep, Ayse’s old friend and unknown secret rival/enemy. Why Zeynep was even invited isn’t explained much, especially since she seems to have creepy feelings for Tarik and that would be just awkward. The whole point is to just give Ayse another enemy, a physical one, as well as a second reason we’ll explain in a bit. Zeynep has always been jealous of Ayse, and spends part of the dinner trying to insinuate Ayse was intimate with several professors during her studies. That’s what friends are for! Unlike most fancy dinner parties I’ve been to, this one doesn’t end with a drunken argument on the front lawn or a broken vase, but it should have.

The extra characters are a blonde girl named Ayden (no relation to Hayden Christensen); male technician Cemil, who is pretty nonchalant about being alone in the desert with a gaggle of babes; an engaged girl named Ceren who will spend most of the movie on the phone with her boyfriend; and Dr. Ekrem’s daughter Sedef, who shows that Turkish scientist daughters are even hotter than Turkish scientist women, but still have no personalities. None of them do much at the dinner party, so we’ll leave them for later. The whole group drinks to the success of the expedition, but by then Zeynep has become incredibly drunk and begin sloshing all over Tarik, trying to sex him up. He rejects her and she vows revenge. Soon he’ll suffer the terrible Turkish fate of “being in a bad Turkish film!” That will show him!

It’s the next day and the expedition sets off. Dr. Ekrem talks about how he used to go on digs with his grandfather as a small boy. The group is taking a van for the first leg, after which they’ll be donkey riding. We can jump right to that, because it’s what happens next. Nothing interesting at all went on during the van drive. Absolutely nothing. Not even a fake scare while narrowly missing hitting a vanishing ghost girl or something. Perhaps they could have been attacked by hopping vampires, or maybe trapped in a Star Trek episode. But nothing. Now it’s donkey time! First, they must chat with the locals as the donkey packs are loaded. (Great, that line about “donkey packs being loaded” is going to get some really sick Google clicks!) They are headed to the ancient Dengizhan Village, which the local old man claims is “Cursed by God.” His name is Amca, and he’s old enough to have fought with the Prophet himself in the Battle of Uhud. Perhaps he’s Santa Claus on vacation. Amca tells the story about how the village was ruined by an evil, elderly sorceress, who convinced the villagers that their girls were to blame for everything that ever went wrong ever. We then get a nice flashback scene where villagers take a newborn infant, put her in a hole, and begin shoveling dirt on her while she’s still alive. This must have been before the invention of the coat hanger or “falling” down the stairs. Amca continues that one man dared to defy the villagers, hiding his daughter. When his wife died, he remarried to another woman, who did not like the daughter and betrayed her to the Wicked Witch, because what happens next in the story we saw in the prologue. I’m glad they finally explained part of it, even if it was much later in the film than it should have been. So now we have buried babies, murdered daughters, mind control, anti-women female witches, evil stepmothers, and evil drunken slut best friends. Turkish horror is truly the best in the world! Oh, eventually everyone left the village due to many horrible disasters that certainly weren’t caused by the crazy Wicked Witch in the town, but must be because of baby girls! With their evil girl cooties! Girls!!!!

Some of the guides must have been paying too much attention to the story, because soon after the donkey team leaves the village, the donkey pack carrying the tents falls off its donkey and down the side of a bottomless cliff. It’s CURSED! The curse of no tents! The team stops for a break, and cracks out the lunch. Ceren is still on the phone with her boyfriend, having the best cell phone battery in the world or something. Ayse shows off an amulet the old man Amca gave her back in the village, which is supposed to protect her from evil. Don’t worry, the amulet soon loses itself when Ayse falls in the creek a few seconds later. Much searching fails to turn it up; it’s lost like the One True Ring, destined to be found by Sméagol and Déagol. Let’s leave the party and check in on jealous girl Zeyneb, who is getting dirt from someone’s grave. I see. Well, it’s good to have a hobby, I guess. We jump back to the expedition, who must travel through a cave system to get to the village. The guides are getting nervous while the characters switch to heavier clothes for the cold cave weather. Some terrible lightning special effects happen, scaring the guides even more. Their fear must be of the low budget, they might be killed by some stray CGI pixels. SciFi Channel loses like five guys a year on movies killed by stray pixels or drowned in digital ink. Tragic.

Hey, look, Zeyneb is doing stuff again. She gives an older woman a picture, some dirt, and an envelope of money (guess which one this older woman is really after) to make Ayse dead. Not like a hitwoman, but from some Psychic Friends-style murder. I guess Gypsies are more highly regarded in Turkey than tough-talking Italian guys. Zeyneb is full of nothing but hate, except the large amount of alcohol she constantly is chugging. The expedition is still wandering the cave system; it looks like the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Yes, I just made another nerdy reference. What do you expect, this is a recap of a Turkish film on the Internet, you’re lucky I’m wearing pants. The guides begin acting even more agitated than before, fearing another CGI lightning strike, so they abandon the party, telling them to meet them back there with the donkeys when it’s over. The expedition finally reaches the village, dragging the donkeys along with them. It looks like it’s going to rain, so they have to hurry and set up camp. Don’t worry, by nighttime it will be clear and dry enough that at least one of the girls sleeps outside, so it must be a light rain. There’s also a chance of blood, as a pipe cracks due to a minor tremor and causes blood to leak from it. None of the characters notice this, the quake, or even mention an ancient plumbing system of blood that runs through abandoned Turkish villages.

The team sets up camp as Ayse gets a nosebleed. Those crafty Turkish Psychics and their nosebleeds of death! Actually, it seems to go away pretty fast, and that’s the limit of the effects of the Zeynep sideplot for a while. Tune in soon when the Gypsy gives Ayse a $20 parking ticket! The map reveals that the village has a house built where the cemetery is supposed to be, showing the map isn’t entirely accurate (or that someone likes living on dead people, which the expedition doesn’t consider.) The team drinks to success, as a POV shot shows someone (or something) is watching them. The mules are spooked by the POV shot, while the team’s lone music CD is mysteriously destroyed. This is because Wicked Witches hate Donkeys and Turkish Pop Music. They also hate little girls who drop houses on their sisters, but that’s a different, better movie. The expedition makes the best of a musicless situation and begins singing some Turkish song I don’t know (which is every Turkish song) and they are attacked by a bat! A harsh critic, the bat bites Cemil in the face, but is squished by Professor Ekrem. Now for some fake science facts: Turkish melodies are specially tuned to interfere with bat’s echo location systems, rendering them blind and pushing them into a panicked frenzy. The team settles down for the night, and the director goes all cheap with some lame scares such as banging windows and POV shots that don’t really go anywhere. The girls prepare for bed by getting half naked, but not fully enough naked to satisfy the hinting we’re getting. Also, Wicked Witches don’t like computers, as all the laptops stop working. Maybe she’s a Mac fan.

That night, blonde girl Ayden gets ghost raped. She’s shaken around and has her clothes torn by an invisible entity. Or is it a bad nightmare (that bruises and rips clothes)? The donkeys are all missing the next morning, no sign of them can be found. They probably ended up as dinner for some passing Turkish nomads, Texas style. Smothered in gravy. But their fate is unimportant to the central plot of the film, Wicked Witch revenge from beyond the grave, with ghost rape. The team is unnerved, but not unnerved enough to not go digging this morning. I guess despite all these fully preserved houses, the book they are looking for is stored underground. It can’t just be lying on some abandoned house’s bookshelf. Ayse gets bored with digging, and goes for a walk through the abandoned village, a walk full of the gauntlet of horror film clichés. We get whispered voices, dead baby girls crying, and even an abandoned hoop rolling past that was used by the murdered daughter in the beginning. It would be spooky had I bothered to mention it earlier. Uh, so yeah. SPooOOOOooOOOOKy!

GIANT ROCK ATTACK! A huge bolder comes rolling through the camp, narrowly missing the team members and smashing all the food. Dr. Ekrem has enough with the whispered rumors of curses, so they go and investigate the house that shouldn’t be there on the cemetery. They find nothing, not even pipes with blood in them. Sedef does find something, but in the dirt. It’s some sort of animal hide with writing on it, ancient Turkish writing mentioning Demon Spirits. They also find a ceremonial knife from the 14th century and an empty snuff box. That empty snuff box sure will be important to the plot! That night, the team discusses the day’s finds when the generator goes out. Cemil’s job is to fix all that stuff, so he goes to check on it, and hears weird sounds. He asks Ceren for more torches, and soon…LIGHT RAY ATTACK! A beam of light hits Cemil as he is working and Ceren as she brings torches. They soon go into “creepy vision” mode and begin to sex each other up, Turkish Light Possessed style! We finally get the nudity the movie has been promising us from these chicks, even if it’s only one of them. Blonde Ayden peeps on them as they go at it, but then the light cuts out. The two realize what they’re doing and stop, too embarrassed to look at each other. Ceren runs off as something slices Cemil’s throat, killing him and splattering blood on her.

Ceren is off crying, taking off her engagement ring in sorrow and shame. The rest of the team notices her crying and covered with blood, and go to check on Ceren, finding his headless corpse thrown onto a ceiling strut, while his head was placed on a door. Dr. Ekrem takes down the body as the girls go off to make accusations at each other, Ayden blaming Ceren for killing Cemil, the two girls tossing rocks at and beating each other while the other girls try to stop them. Dr. Ekrem solves this problem by smacking them both, Ceren then runs off. Later, Ceren tells Ayse that she and Cemil had sex, but wasn’t in control. We also find out that Ayden is Cemil’s girlfriend (THAT came out of left field!) and that she gave up art school to stay at the same university as him. Ayden is freaking out, despite having no show of emotion toward Cemil as a boyfriend at any point in this film that he was alive. Maybe he was her secret boyfriend, so secret that even he didn’t know. Ayden’s chest starts to bleed, and she demands to go home now. But it’s night, so that’s not going to happen. Dr. Ekrem tells the girls he will keep guard while they sleep, but by the next morning Ceren has vanished. All of the maps and compasses are missing as well, so either Ceren took them, or the Evil Witch is opposed to maps and chomped down on Ceren soup that night.

The rest of the team (except Ayden) looks for Ceren and the map, Ayden fuming back at the camp, wishing to leave without her. Ceren is seen going into a cave, and is then thrown around by an unseen force, and then slashed. Ayden finds her after following something she saw into the cave, and then has to claim she didn’t do it when the others arrive. The group gets panicked and tries to get through the cave system to escape, but get lost in the darkness (coupled with more BAT ATTACKS!) and end up back at the empty town that night. We do have some nice atmosphere as they are lost in the cave; there are virtually no visuals, but plenty of sounds that are scary and horrible things happening. It’s a small piece of good film work in an otherwise uneventful film.

The team will try to leave again the next morning. That night, while cleaning up some blood, the fire they are using starts roaring higher whenever blood is being cleaned. Pretty weird, dude. It must be that blood that turns into airborne gasoline when it’s cleaned. Ayse blames the animal hide they found, while Ayden just freaks out again, running away. She eventually runs to where she sees someone’s shadow. It’s in a room with the same symbol as one of the symbols on the animal hide, and Ayden gets sliced up as well. Now it’s time for the big reveal: Who is the killer?

Yeah, the daughter Sedef Ekrem, the one who didn’t really do much except not be dead yet. Seems she was infused by the spirit of the evil stepmother from the prologue due to her being bleeding when touching the animal hide. Note to self: Don’t touch any book while bleeding. You don’t want to be infused with the spirit of Harry Potter or the Sweet Valley Twins. Sedef tries to slash Ayse, who realizes that Sedef is not herself and tries to run. The official explanation, according to the movie, is that Sedef has Onu durduraminyorum inside her! Of course, why didn’t I think of that? Sedef is jumping back and forth between crazy and normal, and then stabs her disbelieving father, cutting off his head and tossing it out of the building. I must admit that this looks pretty goofy as his head goes flying. Flying heads are just funny-looking, probably because I grew up with Madballs and similar things. Sedef chases after Ayse, who is cornered, until the ghost of the murdered daughter from the beginning appears, staring at Sedef and leaving behind the good luck talisman from earlier that Ayse lost in the creek. This little girl went on to marry Casper the Friendly Ghost. Ayse now has some protection, wearing the talisman, and heads toward Sedef while chanting (chanting what, I don’t know) which causes Sedef to run off. Ayse then heads to the cave to escape.

Suddenly, we are at the hospital back in civilization. Ayse’s husband Tarik is there to see his wife. His wife’s body. Who died in a car accident with her friend? Don’t worry; this odd confusion is actually part of the film, as we know Ayse wasn’t in a car. Zeynep was, and so was the Psychic who put the curse on Ayse. I guess it backfired on them, while Tarik is free to go (his phone number was on Zeynep’s cell phone as “Sweetie” which is why he was called.) Tarik then finds his wife, who is at a different hospital. It’s the hospital for women who have survived crazy horror films. She’s roomed with Neve Campbell, while Jamie Lee Curtis and Jennifer Love Hewitt are across the hall. Ayse has some mental problems now, so will be at the hospital for a long time. Well, maybe not that long, as outside, Sedef is sitting on a bench, knitting, and vanishes when she sees Ayse’s husband stroll up. The movie ends, but will Sedef return if Ayse has a daughter? Find out in Büyü 2: Electric Büyügaloo!

For a cursed movie, the only real curse seems to be on the audience! Turkey hasn’t yet returned to the pop fun of their older films, even with their more serious affairs doing pretty good every once in a while. Though Turkey is having a horror film renaissance, with this and movies such as [email protected] and Okul. [email protected] is getting rave reviews, so maybe some good things are slipping into the cracks. One can hope, and we should hope that no directors in Turkey were wounded when they touched the script to Büyü, and were possessed with the spirits of the bad screenwriting. We will be trying to get our hands on [email protected], and maybe we can have a good Turkish film reviewed here. Until then, we shall continue the parade of junk. And parade we will do.


Rated 4/10 (Scorpion, Return of a Turkish Film, Forecasting another Turkish Film, Burying the Baby brings the whole town together!!)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!