USA Release date: 16th December 1983
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 27th January 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I first saw many many years ago. I remember quite enjoying it back then; but I have seen many more films since then and so decided it was time to give it a second look. In the cold light of day, and without the distraction of a night out beforehand, it took on a whole different look. I can’t say I’ve entirely changed my view, but I can say that I can now see many more of its flaws. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.
It is World War II and a troop of German soldiers are sent to hold a pass in the Romanian Alps. The small village they are sent to has an ancient Keep built into the side of the mountain and it is here they set up their headquarters. The leader, Captain Klaus Woermann (Jürgen Prochnow) is a decent man and he leaves the locals to their business. Some of his troops decide that the crosses built into the walls of the Keep might be made of silver and try to dig them out. In doing this they release a supernatural entity that begins to kill them off one by one. Enter the SS led by the ruthless Major Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne). He is not so tolerant of the locals and begins killing them in retribution for the soldiers’ deaths. Of course this has no effect and the local priest, Father Mihail Fonescu (Robert Prosky) persuades the Major to being in an expert on the Keep. He is a Jew, Dr. Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen), who arrives with his daughter, Eva (Alberta Watson). Meanwhile a mysterious man, Glaeken Trismegestus (Scott Glenn), is making his way to the Keep; he knows much more about the evil that has been unleashed there and is probably the only person who can stop it… But is he too late? I think that’s enough for now.
Pretty well made for its day although the effects to look quite dated by today’s standards. I can’t say I was entirely enamoured with Tangerine Dream’s musical score either; it just didn’t seem to fit. As for the performances, well I thought both Jürgen Prochnow and Gabriel Byrne were excellent; Prochnow again proving just what a fine actor he is and Byrne playing a very believable and loathsome character very well. What lets it down is the fact that the audience are allowed to actually see the entity that is causing all the deaths. If you know anything about what scares people, it’s the things you don’t see that scare you; the things your imagination can run wild with. Once the monster, Molasar, is seen all that mystery is lost and it can never have as much impact. Michael Mann did a fair enough job but I felt there were a few too many lingering shots and a little too much exposition in places. Even so, I still quite enjoyed it, although the book is much better.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED (Just)
My score: 6.2/10.
IMDb Score: 5.7/10 (based on 5,072 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: No Data: (Based on 0 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 55/100 (based on 3,226 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Alexandru: No-one's ever died here.
Captain Klaus Woermann: Then what drives people out, in the middle of a rainy night?
Captain Klaus Woermann: Nightmares? Look, man, the real nightmares man has made upon other men in this war. The bad dreams of your Keep are nursery rhymes by comparison.
Captain Klaus Woermann: Why are the small stones on the outside and the large stones here on the interior? It's constructed... backwards. This place was not constructed to keep something... out.
Captain Klaus Woermann: [catching Lutz attempting to chisel out a cross] Soldier, what's your assignment?
Lutz: To string lights, sir.
Captain Klaus Woermann: Then what the hell are you doing? Answer!
Lutz: The silver crosses, sir. There's talk among the men. They hide silver here. Treasure, sir.
Captain Klaus Woermann: Private Lutz, it's been a profitable day for you! Not only have you learned the crosses are made of nickel, not silver, but you have earned yourself a place on first watch all week!
Molasar: You have... death around you.
Captain Klaus Woermann: And what truth do you see? What are you discovering about yourself Kaempffer, uuh? "I murder all these people. Therefore, I must be powerful." And you smash them down only because that raises you up. It's a psychotic fantasy to escape the weakness and disease you sense in the core of your souls! You have scooped the most diseased psyches out of the German gutter! You have released the foulness that dwells in all men's minds! You have infected millions with your twisted fantasies! And from the millions of diseased mentalities that worship your twisted cross... what monstrosity has been released in this keep? Who are you meeting, Kaempffer, in the granite corridors of this keep?...
[pokes Kaempffer with his finger, whispers]
Captain Klaus Woermann: ... Yourself.