The Keep (1983)

This is a blast from the past. I remember seeing this when I was young and thinking that it was pretty cool. Nazis, treasure, demons… Always a good recipe for some entertainment.
But when I saw that it was being played out on a TV station, I realised how little of it I could actually remember. Watching it seemed the only option, but would it stand the test of time?

There seems to be a great filmic link between the Nazis and magic/the supernatural. There’s no doubt that in reality their progress during the war was so terrifying, that many at the time must have thought that they had help from higher powers.
From Indiana Jones to Dead Snow, there are lots of examples of these fantasies being put to celluloid.
The Keep is one such example.

Set mid-second world war, we follow a group of German soldiers who arrive in a small Romanian village as Germany tightens its grasp on Europe.
The squad decide that they want to take up residence in a keep, a pretty weird looking fortress which sits in the centre of the village, which seems to be carved into the mountains.
The guardians of the keep aren’t too happy about it becoming accomodation; there is some kind of ancient power there. But they soon give in after bring threatened  and pushed about a bit.

The soldiers get greedy and start trying to steal things, which wakes up a powerful being deep inside the foundations of the keep. It seems to like nothing more than to appear from time to time and make soldiers explode.
The German officers aren’t too happy about it and initially blame the villagers. Predictably they start to execute people, but it is soon realised that the thing responsible for all the killing isn’t human.
Dr Cuza (Ian McKellen), a local scholar and his daughter are then called to unravel the mystery.

What follows is a strange, dark journey into 80’s horror, with synthesised music, colourful special effects and a good dose of cheese.

The cast is pretty cool, with McKellen, Gabriel Byrne, Jürgen Prochnow and creepy looking Scott Glenn all playing the main roles.

And I like the idea, Nazi’s fuelled by greed are faced with an ancient evil that threatens to destroy them and possibly the world… It’s the sort of thing that could be successfully re-crafted today.
And you can’t fault the way it looks, the set being a pretty convincing Romanian village (with huge spooky fortress in the middle).

But, the cheese aspect is bad.

As the ‘thing’ in the keep is awoken, so too is a guy known as Glaeken (Scott Glenn) elsewhere in Europe who has magical powers, tight abs, and a mission to destroy the creature in the Keep. Nothing will stop him in his mission, apart from the odd bit of showboating and love making.

The effects are typical of the era, lots of dry ice, and hand drawn animation. All very retro, but a little too retro even for me.
Think Never Ending Story, meets Weird Science, meets Biggles, with a dash of evil.

The Keep has a certain something that appeals. Probably the evil looking fortress and the isolated mountain village.
But, it’s too wordy. The story is a basic hero tale, and yet everything takes way too long. As if they have tried to hide the cheese with dialogue, and ensure that Byrne gets adequate limelight.

I was hoping for a classic, but instead found a good reason to not delve too deeply into the dregs of 80’s horror. It’s time that I could have better spent watching something else from my huge back-log! Hmmm, what to watch next…

Movie Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Trailer:

Additional film information: The Keep (1983)

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