The Keep is one of my favorite terrible movies. It’s legit bad, makes no sense, all vibes no brakes. In it, a group of German soldiers are tasked with guarding a Romanian pass which holds a strange keep. The keep is built backwards, with the biggest stones on the inside, as though it’s meant to hold something in, not out. Also the walls are peppered with crosses. What could go wrong! So naturally, someone picks at a cross, a demon comes out, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a shitty movie. But it features Ian McKellen screaming in all his Shakespearean glory at the demon, which is just rad. It also has Jurgen Prochnow no doubt wondering how he got from Das Boot to this bullshit, and this awesome exchange between a terrified SS commando and the demon,
SS Commando: “[holds up cross in trembling hand] Who are you? where do you come from?”
Demon: “[Gently takes cross, crushes it into a ball of metal with one hand] Where do I come from? I come from you. [proceeds to roast this fucking dickhead Nazi alive on gawd on gawd].”
The Keep is also a novel by F. Paul Wilson, who hated the movie and thought it destroyed his work. After reading the book, I have to agree, mostly. The evil force is not a demon, he instead is a dark sorcerer from an Atlantean age. The silent protagonist who opposes the evil in the movie is an actual character, with history and motivations. The horror elements are excellent, with my favorite piece being the German commander painting a landscape to relax, and a hanged man appearing in his painting, slowly looking more and more like the commander.
Another excellent element is the way the Jewish scholar brought to investigate the keep (Ian McKellen’s character) interacts with the evil. He approaches it like a scholar, thinking it may be the origin of vampire myth and testing it with vampire banes like garlic and silver. What finally works is the cross, and the name of Jesus Christ. The Jewish scholar was brought from a concentration camp. He is witness to the desolation of his race, and this interaction suggests there is spiritual legitimacy behind this. It’s a brutal destruction of the man, and the evil does it specifically to mess with him. Excellent and horrifying writing, Dr. Wilson.
Unfortunately the book does not have the “I come from you line,” nor the gravitas of Ian McKellen demanding, “WHO ARE YOU THAT I MUST PROVE MYSELF TO BY KILLING MY CHILD!?” followed by the demon losing the dick-measuring contest. In that alone, the movie has some advantages. There is also a huge and silly exposition dump setting up the final confrontation that kills momentum and quality a bit. Ultimately, that part was meh, and Magda Cuza, one of the only women in the story, is not written very well, but I still recommend the work.