I’ve been told on several occasions I need to see this movie, and that all Tannhauser fans should see it, but is that true…
Well I watched it last night, so, find out after the jump…
First let’s get the technicals out of the way “The Keep” was produced in 1982 and released in December of ‘83. It was directed by Michal Mann, and had a budget of $6 million. This is a pretty low budget even for ‘83, “Scarface”, released the same year had a budget of $25 million. So, despite Mr. Mann’s impressive resume, this move has nowhere near the production value it deserved.
The second problem with this movie is it was also written by Michal Mann, and while he is a good director, at this point in his career he had only really written for TV, and it’s that lack of experience that leads to a disjunct script, and confused plot.
Even though the movie features what are arguably some of the best character actors out there: Scott Glenn (Sucker Punch), Jürgen Prochnow (Das Boot), Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings), and Gabriel Byrne (The End of Days), it’s just not enough to pull the movie out of the hole dug by its poor script.
Finally, we return to that budget, this is ultimately a Sci-fi effects movie and with only $6 mil. to work with the effects end up falling short. Additionally, the bad script and the director’s lack of experience with the genera leads to additional poor choices, that bring down the over all feel of the movie. When your faced with the choice of pretending there is a evil entity, or showing a poor effect to represent said entity. It is generally best to just pretend, then spend the money you would have used on the entity, on its effects on the environment. This concept is demonstrated best by “Jaws” where instead of spending more and more money to make the shark look real, they just decided not to show it.
So, now that all that’s out of the way, what did I actually think of “The Keep”. Well… I’d have to give it 3 out of 5 stars, I liked it, but I probably won’t watch it again anytime soon. Overall it is another one of those cult classic B+ movies, that just fails to live up to its potential. And that’s why it’s going on my top ten list of movies that deserve a high budget remake. As for its status as a piece of “eldritch” horror, it only occasionally delivers on the atmospheric elements, but it does it just enough to be enjoyable by Tannhauser fans. There is a rape scene, a sex scene, and some violence so viewer discretion is advised as they say.
One last note, the Tangerine Dream soundtrack is just abhorrent. I don’t hate the Moog synthesizer or anything, but it just did not fit the subject matter. To make things worse some scenes seemed edited to better fit the music, which is how you make a video for MTV, not a movie.
For those of you who’d rather read your eldritch horror, try the novel “The Keep” by F. Paul Wilson, upon which this movie is based.