Revisited: The Keep – Michael Mann’s Horror

Posted: July 4, 2012 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
Tags: , , ,
A few of a detachment of German Army soldiers are mysteriously murdered in a Romanian citadel – 1942. The SS arrives to investigate and put a stop to the killings. However, there is an evil force at work within the Keep which will do anything to escape.
The Keep is a high concept yarn. The initial find set up and shooting of the villagers are stand out moments. The visuals and effects are stylistic, strong lighting, wind machines, optical layers are very much of there day. The special make-up has a startling ‘cool’ look to it, the ‘Molasar’ and Trismegestus designs are particularly well executed. Notably are the cast which includes the likes of Gabriel Byrne and Robert Prosky. Jürgen Prochnow is on fine form as Captain Klaus Woermann, Scott Glenn is intense and Ian McKellen is memorable as Dr. Theodore Cuza. The sets are well crafted, the on location shoot add credence to the WWII setting and costumes add to the believability.
Nevertheless, rather than being intriguing with a slow pace The Keep plods along without building any real tension or suspense. The editing is a little jumbled, it appears to be a mixture of good and bad takes leaving it somewhat disjointed especially in the final reel, it may have benefited from only using those ‘good’ takes with a shorter running time. Tangerine Dream’s score is of its time but doesn’t compliment the scenes, it’s highly intrusive and takes away much of the atmosphere, subtlety and eeriness.
Even with director Michael Mann at the helm and given the excellent story based on F. Paul Wilson’s novel and Mann’s adequate screenplay it never gels together. It’s not sure whether it wants to be an art house, MTV video piece or gritty supernatural. Should Mann had attempted this recently he may have been able to fuse it together satisfyingly. I suppose retrospect is a fine thing. Curiously, Mann’s workprint ran for 3 hours, after the studio saw what he had they wanted cut to no longer than 90 minutes and assigned it second-level advertising. Mann has since distanced himself from the film.
Through all its disjointedness The Keep is an interesting film with a strong mythical good versus evil theme that plays on old religious fables. Molasar (Michael Carter) is the most menacing evil entity/being ever committed to celluloid and it’s a shame that this has fallen into obscurity robbing the character and The Keep of even cult status.
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