Part of Staff Picks and programmed by Jason, who says: “A hallucinatory film maudit that eschews plot and character for atmosphere, texture, grandeur, and heightened melodrama at every moment.”
1941. Nestled in the Carpathian Alps, an ancient fortress sits, unchanged by time. To the German Wehrmacht, this is but another space to claim and plunder. But ancient secrets lie within the walls, and human shortsightedness has loosed something unspeakable into an uncertain world.
Based on a novel by noted horror writer F. Paul Wilson (the first in his six-book Adversary cycle), THE KEEP details three parallel struggles: the first between mystical warrior Glaeken Trismegestus (Scott Glenn of NASHVILLE and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) and the avatar of evil, Molasar (Michael “Bib Fortuna” Carter); the second detailing the seduction of righteous soul Dr. Theodor Cuza (Ian McKellen, who was almost broken as a human being by the film’s production) to evil; and the third being the conflict between German Army officer Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow) and SS Commandant Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne). All of that, and World War II as well, in addition to nurse/signifier/incarnation of the potential future Eva Cuza (the late, great Alberta Watson from 24 and SPANKING THE MONKEY) and a renegade priest played by Robert Prosky.
This is the kind of film where a character turns to look in two directions, and between the first direction and the second about four chapters worth of plot happen. This is the kind of film where the two main adversaries of the piece are not mentioned by name until the last four minutes of the film, and even then only in passing and only once. Author Wilson was so disgusted with the end result that he wrote a short story called “Cuts,” about a horror writer who uses voodoo to kill a director who'd misadapted one of his stories.
But Michael Mann, even compromised by the circumstances of financing and production, is a singular artist, and in conjunction with his cast and crew (cinematographer Alex ALIEN3 Thomson in particular delivers stellar imagery) creates something unique. Is it a satisfying adaptation of the original book? That depends. Is it a wild, psychedelic, hard-hitting melodrama with lots of imaginative special effects and one of the greatest film scores of the 20th century, courtesy of Tangerine Dream? Absolutely. Is there a chance that you’re going to see anything else quite like this in a theatre? Doubtful.
“A worthy successor to a mode of horror, as morally unsettling as it is spiritually devastating, that threads through films like Murnau’s NOSFERATU and Lewton and Robson’s ISLE OF THE DEAD. “ —Kim Newman, Electric Sheep
The Belcourt Theatre does not provide advisories about subject matter or potential triggering content, as sensitivities vary from person to person.
Beyond the synopses, trailers and review links on our website, other sources of information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and DoesTheDogDie.com as well as through general internet searches.