Film / The Keep

The Keep is a 1983 horror film based on the first novel in The Adversary Cycle by F. Paul Wilson.

It concerns a group of German soldiers sent to guard a mountain pass in Romania, who accidentally unleash an evil being named Radu Molasar being from within the story's titular citadel. The dreaded SS Einsatzkommando are sent in but have little luck, and, ultimately, the Germans are forced to seek the help of a Jewish history professor, Theodore Cuza, who unsurprisingly ends up allying himself with the evil entity because he sees him as a means of ridding the world of Nazism. In the meantime, a mysterious stranger with some connection to the keep shows up, determined to interfere with whatever it is Molasar's got cooking. In the meantime he naturally falls for Prof. Cuza's hot daughter, Eva.

The Keep is a very strange and confusing - but not entirely bad - film. It was directed by Michael Mann and was typical of Mann's directorial style. It featured an impressive cast (with early appearances by Ian McKellen and Gabriel Byrne) and some good special effects, but studio-enforced editing gutted the film and the untimely death of special effects supervisor Wally Veevers necessitated a completely different ending. The Keep bombed, and bombed hard. Nevertheless, it has gained a cult following in the ensuing years, thanks mostly to its soundtrack, but also due to its interpretation of Molasar, as well as the rare mix of Gothic Horror with World War II.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Erich Kaempffer. In the book, he's blonde, but here he's black-haired.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Dr. Cuza's daughter Magda has become Eva.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Subverted in a big way with Klaus Woermann, who initially appears to be a stereotypical Nazi in his first scene. However, he aims to have good relations with the Romanian civilians, and looks down his nose at the SS.
    Woermann: [after being accused of incompetence] My competence was proven in combat, against soldiers who shoot back!
  • Anachronism Stew: SS in black in 1940's Romania?!
    • Artistic License History: Mann deliberately put the Einsatzkommando in the famous all-black uniform to visually set them apart from the "good" German soldiers. Interestingly, everything else about their uniforms is accurate, including the lack of the SS lightning bolts anywhere but on their helmets (Einsatzkommando were SD and SD, although they were in the SS, didn't have the lightning bolts on their collars like regular SS).
  • Anti-Villain: Woermann. A German captain who doesn't belong to the Nazi Party, doesn't mistreat the villagers, cares about the men under his command and makes no attempt to hide his disdain for the reprehensible SS officer Khaempffer.
  • Big Damn Villains: Molasar coming to the rescue of Eva during the attempted rape scene.
  • Body Horror: Molasar's victims are either disintegrated entirely or left burned and charred after encountering him.
  • Canon Foreigner: Father Fonescu.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Tangerine Dream's score for the film is one of the primary reasons it has become so beloved by its fans over the years, the pounding opening titles theme in particular.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Teach him the art of translation" is Kaempffer-speak for "Beat this guy up."
  • Death by Adaptation: Glaeken, at least in the theatrical cut with the truncated Downer Ending.
    • Simultaneously averted in that the scene where Alexandru (who otherwise just sort of disappears from the story) is murdered by his own sons was cut.
  • Drone of Dread: Used frequently in the score to marvelous and eerie effect.
  • Elite Mooks: The Einsatzkommando.
  • Enemy of My Enemy: Molasar convinces Cuza they have a common enemy. That, or Cuza just assumes it and Molasar plays along to gain his trust. In either case he's lying outright and is worse than the Nazis.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Literally everything we need to know about Sociopathic Soldier Erich Kaempffer, we learn in his first scene where he calmly orders some villagers executed.
  • A Father to His Men: Woermann seems to be this, since he tells his men exactly what they want to hear (for example, when Oster laments that they should be Russia for the final assault on Moscow, Woermann tells him that by the time he puts n for a transfer, they'll be Masters of the World) but he doesn't really believe in the party rhetoric, is anti-Fascist, and hates the SS. He still does his job anyway.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: When the SS are rounding the villagers up, one of them gives a villager who isn't moving quickly enough for his liking a swift kick in the rear.
  • Missing Reflection: As part of his obviously otherworldly nature, Glaeken casts no reflection. In the extended ending seeing his reflection in the water indicates that the curse is broken and that he has become mortal again.
  • Mook Horror Show: First the German soldiers experience this, and it's possible to feel sorry for them as Molasar devours his way through their ranks, seeing as there is effort put into making them seem human. Then the SS Einsatzkommando are brought in, and it's difficult not to cheer for the monster.
  • Neck Lift: Done to Kaempffer by Molasar when he kills him.
  • The Neidermeyer: Even by the standards of your stereotypical abusive SS officer with more viciousness than brains, Kaempffer is a real doozy.
  • Papa Wolf: Molasar manages to convince Cuza that he is this to the Romanian Jews. He makes a big show of acting outraged when told that "his people" are being murdered, and vows to take vengeance against "the soldiers in black." It's all just a lie to get the Jewish Cuza to cooperate with him, and the desperate scientist swallows it hook, line and sinker.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: Being sealed up in the keep for 500 years doesn't seem to have slowed Molasar down much.
  • Purple Eyes: Glaeken's eyes are colored purple and glow brightly when he's pissed.
  • Railing Kill: Done to one of the Einsatzkommando by Glaeken, in gloriously silly slo-mo.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Woermann delivers a drunken tirade against Kaempffer and accuses him of simply murdering people to feel powerful. Unusually, Kaempffer fires back with one of his own, accusing Woermann of being too afraid to stand up for what he believes in. Later, when he realizes Molasar has lied to him, Cuza goes on a rant about how Molasar has exploited and used him.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Radu Molasar.
  • Shoot the Dog: Father Fonescu's dog comes to a very bad end while the priest is (apparently) under Molasar's influence.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: It's heavily implied Cuza dies in the novel, but the movie lets him survive, albeit returned to his aged, decrepit state. Similarly, in the novel Glaeken kills the two Romanian border guards but in the movie he just intimidates them into getting out of his way.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Invoked in-universe. When a drunken Woermann criticizes the SS' ruthless practice of murdering civilians, Kaempffer asks quite pointedly when Woermann has done more than talk, and actually risked himself to try and stop it, accusing him of talking big but never acting. Woermann admits Kaempffer is right.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lutz. After being expressly forbidden by Captain Woermann from futzing with the crosses in the keep, he and another soldier attempt to pry one loose from the wall the minute they're alone, with predictable results.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Kaempffer and his SS bully boys.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Where did Oster go? He isn't seen in the main room prior to Molasar's attack, so what happened to him?
  • "You!" Exclamation: Done by Molasar in reaction to Glaeken's return.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The two Einsatzkommando who try to rape Eva have this done to them by Molasar.