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The Keep - Film Review

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Published February 16th 2013
The cult classic horror film The Keep was based on a novel by the same name written by F. Paul Wilson. The screenplay, directed by Michael Mann in 1983, is a classic tale of good versus evil.


Set in the mountainous Dinu Pass in Romania during 1941 (World War II), a small German force (Wehrmacht) is sent to occupy an ancient fortress for its strategic value. The German infantry, however, unintentionally release an imprisoned spirit while they attempt to loot T-shaped silver and nickel crosses embedded in the Keep's inner wall.

A few mysterious deaths later, the spirit grows stronger and SS Einsatzkommandos arrive to take charge of the keep. Out of nowhere a super-human (referred to as Glaeken in the novel) spawns into existence, bathed in white light, to deal with the demonic threat while a wheelchair bound Romanian scientist (Ian McKellan) signs a Faustian pact with the devil.

Tangerine Dream, a German electronic music band, scored a haunting and brilliant soundtrack. Albeit synthesised, the score has an orchestral quality that soars to a crescendo at the most tense of moments.

The final cut of the movie omits a lot of detail from the novel and so makes for a bizarre series of events that a casual viewer can follow if they rely on Western WWII tropes and symbolism.

The Keep depicts the Wehrmacht captain as a humane leader who sides with the native Romanians to help fight the demon.

When Major Kaempffer of the SS confronts the demon he asks where he is from; the grotesque monstrosity replies: 'Where am I from? I am from you.' The devil represents absolute evil, cruelty measured beyond the fascist regime, and is reminiscent of the Jewish Kabbalistic legend of the golem, which is a magical being made with soil and invoked incantations.

The keep itself is like Pandora's box because the prison of stone, silver and nickel houses the tool in which humankind can bring about its own destruction through greed.



It is important to note that novel explores the moral differences between the regular German infantry and the fanatical SS elite and also dwells on a love story between the scientist's daughter and Glaekan. The Keep is worth seeing and reading.
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Why? Nazis, soldiers and Romanians fight a demon
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