review for The Keep on AllMovie

The Keep (1983)
by Michael Buening review

For The Keep, director Michael Mann seemingly ordered all smoke machines in existence and left them on for the entirety of the shoot. His second feature, it contains the synth-soaked soundtrack (by Tangerine Dream) and moody overabundance one would expect from the director who brought MTV video styles to narrative filmmaking, but this intriguing update of the Golem story to World War II Romania is entirely unexpected. Ian McKellen plays a crippled concentration camp escapee recruited by an otherworldly giant to help him escape from within the walls of the titular keep so that he can avenge the crimes of the Nazis. Those expecting a traditional horror movie may be disappointed. The film concentrates more on its dreary pulsing set-up than any action-filled pay-off. Its bombastic self-seriousness and brooding eccentric characters may be its greatest asset or biggest turn-off, depending on your point of view. The Keep was something of a bomb with audiences uninterested in an Eastern European-flavored revenge fantasy and morality tale involving the Holocaust. While not quite an overlooked masterpiece, it still deserves critical and audience reconsideration. Released in 1983, The Keep shares an arty-horror vibe similar to Tony Scott's The Hunger from that same year -- a gloomy approach that would be dropped by both directors in their transition to blockbuster-level directors.