The Keep Movie Review

Release: 1983, Rating: R, Runtime: 96 min.

I’m finally back from vacation and back to work on my sites. After getting settled in, I decided it was best to get going with a movie review and I was in the mood to watch a nice horror film, something from the 80s to be precise. After going back and forth on a few movies, I decided to pick The Keep, a horror film from 1983. Once I was about 40 minutes into the movie, I quickly came to the realization that I’ve made a terrible mistake and there was no turning back…

Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison. 

The Keep is based on the novel of the same name, by F. Paul Wilson, a man who has been quoted as saying the film is utterly incomprehensible and he couldn’t be anymore right. The movie is directed by Michael Mann (Heat), with music by Tangerine Dream. It’s about a group of German soldiers setting up camp in a giant mausoleum in the mountains of Romania, during WWII. Avoiding the warnings from the local people, about how no one ever makes it through the night, Captain Klaus Woermann, played by Jürgen Prochnow (In the Mouth of Madness), ignores the people and stays anyway. Some fellow greedy soldiers hear word that the temple has silver buried in it and decide to explore and in doing so, unknowingly release a trapped demon. A few soldiers are killed during the night and at the same time, a mysterious man in Greece, played by Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs), is awakened during the night, with his eyes growing bright white. He packs a bag and sets on his way to the keep. Turns out this man, is some sort of guardian against the ancient evil and must stop it from escaping.

The next day, a group of SS soldiers arrive at the keep, after hearing word of the killings, thinking the village people are uprising. The leader of the group, Major Kaempffer, played by Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), orders his man to kill a few people and then promptly starts to explore the keep. They find some weird markings on the wall and a local priest in the town says it’s an ancient language and only one man can translate it. In comes Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings), a Jewish historian, who looks about the same age as he does now. He, along with his daughter, come to the keep and during a violent transgression between his daughter and some German soldiers, the demon appears and stops the men (by exploding them of course) and tells the old man he can stop the bad guys, if he removes a talisman from the temple. At the same time, the mysterious glowing eyes man has arrived into town and instead of quickly dispatching the ancient evil, decides to sleep with the daughter, a woman who falls instantly in love with this man, even though she doesn’t even know his name (what a ho-bag). After some more random shit starts happening, the movie ends with a cheesy freeze frame and we the audience are even more clueless as to what the hell just transpired.

I’m thinking utterly incomprehensible was being too kind with this one, as the movie is a complete cluster fudge. The editing is all over the place, with scenes cutting randomly to different locations, with no continuity in between. We also have a soundtrack that blares over everything, making dialog hard to hear and giving you this vibe of a bad 80s music video. Also, the movie clocks in at an hour and half, but given the ginormous amount of slow motion used, the movie really only runs about an hour long. I’ve read that the original cut of the film was 3.5 hours long, but I assume it was just another 2.5 hours of slow motion running, set to some Tangerine Dream (a music group who really isn’t that bad, but given the films context, feels badly misplaced).

If I was to give any props to the film, I would say that we have some neat exploding deaths that happen a lot. Also, the film has some nice visuals, with some beautiful cinematography. Alas though, a pretty, exploding bodies film is no excuse for a poor and messy story. I’ve heard Michael Mann disowns this film and doesn’t want it to be released on DVD. Although, even though I don’t agree with him, as I think any movie should be readily available, I can’t but help feel sorry for him, as this is one crappy stain that would be hard to remove.


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evl keith
evl keith
11 years ago

I'd agree that this isn't the greatest film ever. The book of The Keep that this was based on, by F. Paul Wilson is a brilliant book. Way better than the film. I'd still love to see a good film version of it along with The Tomb.

Michael Tatlock
11 years ago

I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my opinion of the film. I haven't read the book before, but I definitely want to look into it. Thanks for checking the review out and commenting. 🙂

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