The worldwide release of Girl With No Mouth could not come at a better time for Nightmare On Film Street, as we celebrate the End of Days this month. A Turkish adventure set in a post-apocalyptic countryside, it’s directed by Can Evrenol, who also directed such films as Baskin, Housewife, and a segment in the anthology The Field Guide to Evil, among others. Evrenol wrote the script, along with Kutay Ucun.
In the not-so-distant future, the world is once again at war. A massive explosion at a plant has caused deformities in children, like Perihan (Elif Sevinç), a young girl born without a mouth. Immediately, you ask, how does she eat? Well, she has to carry around a hand-operated food processor and a pump, which she uses to shoot the mashed up food either up her nose or through a tube connected directly to her stomach. Now that’s fine eating!
“…more adventure than horror, as though The Goonies took place in a Mad Max landscape.”
Perihan lives on a small farm with her father (Sermet Yesil), hidden away from other people. But her simple life is disrupted when her father is paid a visit by his brother Kemal (Mehmet Yilmaz Ak), who comes bearing news that “peace is coming,” which actually means the state Kemal works for, simply known as “The Corporation,” plans to exterminate every child born with a deformity. Perihan manages to escape her uncle and his goons, finding herself alone for the first time in her life.
While wandering in the forest, she meets a boy with no eyes, who calls himself the Captain (Denizhan Akbaba). He’s the self-appointed leader of a band of orphaned deformed children who call themselves the Pirates. They include the heavy-set Yusuf (Özgür Civelek), born without a nose, and Badger, a small boy born without earlobes. With Kemal hot on their tail, the kids must abandon their makeshift camp, in search of a safer place.
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Despite living in a harsh world in which they have to fend for themselves, the Pirates are still kids with wild imaginations. Every night, Captain tells his crew a fantastical story, involving fairies, zombies and a Lost City. On their journey, they play around in broken-down cars and have rock-throwing competitions. They remind me a lot of the kids in Tigers Are Not Afraid (as well as the Lost Boys from Peter Pan), holding onto their innocence in the face of such hardship. The relationship between Perihan and Captain is very sweet. Communicating with each other presents a challenge, but by using a system of clapping or snapping, they develop an adorable childhood romance.
Kemal is the kind of villain you would find in a Guillermo del Toro movie. He’s heartless and cruel, and has no qualms about killing a child on the spot, even if that child is his niece. At the beginning of the film, he comes off as cool and collected, claiming he’s just following orders. But over the course of his pursuit, he becomes more unhinged, delighting in the thought of murder. My favorite character is introduced an hour into the movie. Known only as the Sergeant’s Wife (Özay Fecht), she chugs liquor first thing in the morning, regularly spits on the floor and yells at her dead husband from across her house. Yet, she tries to have some class, by placing doilies on the assault rifle she hangs on the wall.
The post-apocalyptic look is brought to life thanks to the costume design. I especially like the look of the Captain, who has animal bones tied into his hair and walking stick and wears dark goggles to hide his lack of eyes. All the children cover up their deformities, including Perihan, who wears a strip of fabric over her lack of a mouth, making her look as we all do when we go grocery shopping nowadays. Those coverings are only removed during the character introductions and pivotal scenes. It works on many levels because you believe those characters want to appear as normal, but also, it must have saved time and money during production, because the actors wouldn’t have to spend hours in makeup every day of shooting.
Girl With No Mouth can be disturbing and violent at times, with the occasional nightmare sequence, however, it’s relatively bloodless and most of the kills happen off-screen. There are a few teary-eyed, tender-hearted moments, accomplished in part by the superb classical score by Deniz Güngören. I’m very much of the opinion that this movie can be enjoyed by both adults and children, if they’re brave enough and don’t mind reading subtitles. It’s a far departure from the horrifically dark imagery of Evrenol’s other works. It’s more adventure than horror, as though The Goonies took place in a Mad Max landscape.
“Girl With No Mouth feels like a fairy tale, but the events of the film aren’t that far off from what we’ve seen throughout history.”
Girl With No Mouth feels like a fairy tale, but the events of the film aren’t that far off from what we’ve seen throughout history. Radiation from chemical warfare and disaster is responsible for causing cancer and birth defects among a country’s population years after, whether it’s from Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, depleted uranium used in the Persian Gulf War, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the nuclear power plant explosion in Chernobyl. Even today, people with disabilities often don’t feel welcome in society, either socially or because infrastructure rarely caters to their needs. Of course, Girl With No Mouth is an extreme case of a corporation covering up their atrocities by decimating the disabled, but it’s premise is very much grounded in reality.
Girl With No Mouth is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on digital platforms now. Share your thoughts on this post-apocalyptic adventure-horror with us over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.