Dabbe (2006)

Rating: C

Dir: Hasan Karacadag
Star: Ümit Acar, Ebru Aykaç, Serdar Özer, Serhat Yigit
a.k.a. D@bbe

This is more than a little rough around the edges, not least in the area of plotting. It’s never exactly clear what’s going on. Indeed, I’d have been happy to settle for somewhat clear, but that might still be a stretch. At the top level, it’s the concept that the Internet is being hijacked by a demonic entity, possibly heralding the End Times. Or maybe the Internet is a demonic entity? In either case, it seems to be responsible for a global wave of suicides, which began in Japan, went through America, and is now beginning to reach Turkey. Its first victim is Tarik (Yigit), who impales his own head on a carving knife. #TikTokChallenge

His friends, in particular Hande (Aykaç), are concerned. Tarik had been acting increasingly oddly in the days before his demise, and when Hande recovers the camera she had lent him, she finds unsettling photos on it. Meanwhile police commissioner Suleyman (Acar) is investigating the deaths – which as he points out, doesn’t make sense because he’s a homicide detective. Both he and Hande start to experience weird visions, like Jacob’s Ladder on crack. That’s getting off lightly compared to others in their circle, who join Tarik in the morgue at an alarming rate. After Hande decodes the “388@0” message left by Tarik – taking a good hour than the viewer, in all likelihood – she realizes the only hope might be a religious nutter, who may know what’s going on.

It’s a low-fi approach – it looks shot on video, and not particularly high-def video. But this mirrors a retro feel, filled with dial-up noises and Yahoo log-in screens, and there are some strong sequences here. The best might be the one where we discover the full extent of Suleyman’s past trauma concerning his wife. Another is when he and Hande visit the nutter, only to discover he has been pushed entirely over the edge by what he knows, in an almost Lovecraftian way. There’s no denying Karacadag’s eye for imagery, such as the TV broadcast, discussing the epidemic of suicides, where the reporter’s face increasingly morphs into something considerably more demonic (top). Just a shame the same care is not applied to the narrative.

It’s a decent concept, especially compared to some other attempts from the noughties to leverage the Internet for horror purposes, e.g. feardotcom. But beyond fulfilling Koranic prophecy, we never learn the Dabbe’s purpose. Maybe it’s clearer to the local audience, better acquainted with the religious text? That would be the most charitable explanation, and might be too generous given the other issues, such as a reliance on exposition dumps like television interviews, instead of the story flowing naturally. There’s a lack of progression as well; at the end, you’re just a few more deaths further on, without significant other development to show for your hour and fifty minutes. The planned trilogy feels like it’s going to stretch its material perilously thin.