Release date: December 16, 1983
Runtime: 95 minutes
We humans mess around with things and forces we don’t understand all the time. We linger where we might not belong and poke things that were better left undisturbed. Don’t touch that. Don’t go there. Don’t say those words in front of a mirror. Better not even think about feeding that thing after midnight…
These ventures into mishap are fun from a viewer’s perspective; the concept of doing the opposite of what we’re told is a blast to watch when we’re not the ones making the mistake. And doesn’t it just make for a great movie to watch someone else get their butts handed to them? Especially when the people who are getting their comeuppance are a group who represent evil in humanity. the Nazis. Cha-ching!
Based on a novel by F. Paul Wilson, The Keep made its theatrical debut in late 1983 to a limited audience accumulating over 4 million dollars. Even with actors like Ian McKellen, Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne, and Jürgen Prochnow involved in the project, acclaimed director Michael Mann still seemed to have more of a small cult hit on his hands instead of a widespread success. It’s possible that not many people have even heard of the film since it has, incredulously, never been released on DVD to date.
In World War II, a company of German soldiers are sent to occupy a small village in Romania to prevent travelers from moving along the mountain pass undetected. When the soldiers’ corrupt and greedy natures unleashes a dangerous threat that has been held prisoner in the village’s citadel hundreds of years, the fate of the human race lay within a handful of survivors to try to make things right. But can they save themselves at the same time?
With the background laid out for you, here’s the score:
G: General Entertainment – I like the kind of movie that pulls me in from the first fifteen minutes. While I didn’t find the movie altogether “horrific” to watch, simply because I’ve seen “scarier”, it held my attention. I wanted to see more. The film is not a perfect example of a monster movie, and even though I enjoyed the first half I found myself less enamored by the last half. It was disappointing, since I thought the story built up so well. Then, I found myself watching the rest simply because I like the actors playing the roles. 3/10
A: Actuality – The supernatural aspects aside, the act of occupying villages for war agendas certainly is not a new concept and is very real. When you add the aforementioned supernatural forces into the mix, it just adds a new angle to the plot. An army can invade a place if they have the strength to do so, but they shouldn’t presume to believe that they know everything that is required to hold it. These naughty soldiers messed with something they didn’t believe in, didn’t care about, and didn’t respect only to find out the penalty for their ignorance was death. To me, there’s no huge difference between The Keep‘s fictitious soldiers and a real company of invaders consuming poisonous indigenous foods because they don’t know any better. 8/10
S: Story – The movie was originally 3.5 hours long, which is a long time to tell this kind of story, so it was cut down to the amended length. It’s possible that, in the act of editing, the hiccups I saw were created. Some important scenes didn’t seem powerful enough and some of the characters were glossed over, resulting in my wondering why they were there to begin with. It’s possible that the original unedited length holds what’s missing, but not having seen that footage, I give this category a low score even though the idea of the story itself had promise. 3/10
P: Presentation – I imagine that within a citadel with no electric power (until a generator wheeled in by the Germans allows them to string lights up through it) it’d be pretty dark. So that’s where a lot of the dark shots come from-which build some tension, but not as much as if I’d seen this in the 1980’s. Lightning burst effects and glowing eyes are some of the effects that are used in the film, but for as many soldiers die in the movie, not many deaths are actually seen. It’s easy to make the right assumptions when you see the aftermath of a particularly large group death scene but again, the lighting was poor and it wasn’t as gruesome as it might have been intended to be. I found that sound volume was an issue as well. During moments of dialogue you have to turn the volume up but when a death is occurring, you have to turn it down because it’s so loud. Also at times it was difficult to understand McKellen’s character’s speech at the beginning. While the difficulty is supposed to convey his declining health, it sounded as if he was speaking through a mouth full of marbles, and it felt odd that everyone understood him perfectly except me. 3/10
TOTAL SCORE: 4.25/10
I was disappointed that the whole movie wasn’t as interesting as the beginning was. It seemed to fall apart and didn’t quite pick itself back up, especially at the end. As with every movie, there will be people who will love The Keep, but there will also be people who will see the flaws and imperfections and find it boring by the end. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. It’s up to you to see what you think about it.
Until next time!