After hearing about, almost constantly, for 3 consecutive weeks I finally got a chance to see The Keep of 1983. I came across it on Netflix Instant and I figured that I would give it a shot because the plot interested me. It takes place during World War II and is about a Nazi convoy that takes over a small town and commandeers an ancient keep. Little do they know, this ancient keep is home to an unspeakable evil that becomes released when two soldiers try to steal a silver idol. Now, as Nazis are overrunning the town and an evil force is unleashed upon the keep, it’s up to a young woman and her crippled father to survive. I love period pieces and I love it when they combine real life events with horror and this was a perfect blend of that… however, I don’t believe that this movie is all that horrifying.
The Keep was one of the first movies directed by Tony Scott and I guess you can sort of see his style. The film is an art-house movie and that’s mainly because of the production design and the camera techniques. The whole film felt like some sort of eerie, Alien-esque like sci-fi film that had monolithic and apocalyptic imagery. There are waves and pillars of white bursting light that may signify a higher force or perhaps an extraterrestrial force. If you see it, the scene when one of the soldiers finds the silver idol… not only does it seem like he found the Holy Grail but it’s also very reminiscent of Blade Runner and other sci-fi classics. However, I think the most interesting aspect (and perhaps it was intentional) was the heavy parallel between Raiders of the Lost Ark and the scenes when all the Nazi soldiers fall victim to the evil sprit within the keep. The resemblance is uncanny.
If you look beyond all the sci-fi noir imagery and focus on the story, it’s really about the idea of a higher power, salvation and redemption. There is a quite beautiful but haunting scene where the evil force (in it’s cloudy shadowy form) rescues the young woman before two Nazi soldiers could rape her. She is than brought into her father’s room and set down on the bed. Following, the father sees the force as death and pleads with it to take him and not his daughter. The force, in a fit of rage, electrocutes the father only to make him young and able to walk without a wheelchair. It’s almost poetic. The are a lot of motifs that sort of suggest that this film tackles the idea of a higher power that doesn’t come from the Church or any type of religion but rather another world. It’s a very interesting concept.
But like all good directors, this film is far from perfect. It has its share of cornball moments like when the father (while still looking young) confronts the mythical being with a talisman and screams at him. It’s so painful to watch because the acting is just so bad. One of the more random scenes that didn’t have anything to do with the plot had the town priest eating someone or some thing in his church. It was sort of a cinematic non-sequitur. The acting is not that good and the rivaling mythical being (yes, there is another that it sent to destroy the evil force inside the keep) is so dry and monotone that he mind as well be a robot. I felt as though there could have been more emphasis on the relationship the father has with his daughter but, it did what it needed to do.
This film stars Gabriel Byrne (who I remember from Ghost Ship), Ian McKellen and Robert Prosky (from Last Action Hero) who I thought was Robbie Coltrane. They both did great performances with the occasional melodramatic acting. If you want to see a horror movie where you can relax but want a little more pazazz, I think this is the film for you. It’s a very well made and often goofy sci-fi film. I would love to watch it again and really pay attention to the films that The Keep homages.