THE KEEP (1983) Reviews and overview

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‘Tonight, they will all face the evil.’

The Keep is a 1983 American-British horror feature film written and directed by Michael Mann. It stars Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne, Jürgen Prochnow, Alberta Watson and Ian McKellen. It was released by Paramount Pictures.

The story is based on the F. Paul Wilson novel of the same name, published in 1981. Wilson has publicly expressed his distaste for the film version, writing in the short story collection The Barren (and Others) that it is, “Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible.”

Despite being a critical and commercial failure, it has apparently retained a minor cult following, mostly due to the film’s music synthesizer score by Tangerine Dream and the film’s mixture of Gothic horror and World War II elements.


Within a deserted citadel (the “Keep” of the title) in World War II Romania lies entrapped a dangerous and malevolent entity named Radu Molasar. When the German Army occupies the castle to control the Dinu Mountain Pass, Molasar is unwittingly unleashed from deep within the innermost recesses of the citadel by a pair of treasure-seeking soldiers and he consumes their life energy.

A detachment of Einsatzkommandos then arrives to deal with what is thought to be partisan activity. The actions of the troops only fuel the demon’s hunger for bloodshed and soon more troops begin to die in mysterious, gruesome ways…


“It is a very beautiful exercise in style, but with nobody to root for, or to even mildly sympathise with, its failure to find an audience isn’t overly surprising. In terms of its place within the horror genre (a position that is contestable) it is cut adrift, singular and frustrating, implausible yet all the more wonderful for it.” The Celluloid Highway

“As a film, The Keep feels torn between two camps. It feels like it is stuck aground unable to find a common place between the stylish arthouse chic of director Michael Mann and the pulp horror elements of F. Paul Wilson’s novel.” Moria

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