As dated as it is, The Keep (1983), Michael Mann’s second theatrical release after Thief (1981), remains an intriguing mess of historical provocation. The film answers “Nazisploitation” filmmakers’ favorite “What if” question—“If you could go back in time and kill the Nazis, would you?”—with a stirring “No.” Set in occupied Romania during 1943, the film’s central location, identified as “The Carpathian Mountains,” hints at a familiar supernatural threat (hint: He vants to suck your blood) but forgoes that kind of undead evil for a more Jungian kind. Mann’s film posits that the only thing more evil than the Nazis is Molsar (Michael Carter), an evil deity that stands in for humanity’s collective hatred. Sealed into the eponymous locale by nickel and silver-plated crosses, Molsar reveals Himself to us with an unholy amount of dry ice and blinding white lights that are straight out of a certain Russell Mulcahy music video.
Small as Molsar may be (he looks like more of a robot than a god, kinda like the Micronauts’ Baron Karza) he’s the monster you conjure up when you contemplate such fruitless speculative questions as whether or not murdering the Nazis, at any point in time, is the best way to deal with the consequences of their actions. And all of His power resides in a lil’ rinky-dink talisman that looks like it took only a few minutes for some poor techie to whip up on location. The film and Mann’s monster are for all intents and purposes earnest, but how seriously you can take the film is entirely dependent on your tolerance for camp.