Set in WWII with Jurgen Prochnow and Gabriel Byrne as Nazis assigned to occupy the title fortress/crypt in a Romanian village. Unfortunately, the keep served a purpose, told contain an evil force, an evil force that the soldiers are very soon going to come into contact with. Meanwhile, mysterious Scott Glenn (as a Greek man named Glaeken Trismegestus!!) heads for the keep himself. Robert Prosky plays a local priest, Sir Ian McKellen is a wheelchair-bound historian (a Jew brought in to decipher markings on the walls of the keep), with Alberta Watson as his daughter and Rosalie Crutchley briefly glimpsed as his wife.
Let me know if anyone out there has a goddamn clue what was going on here, ‘coz I’m at a loss. Pretentious 1983 horror/sci-fi/war hybrid from the usually terrific Michael Mann makes no sense at all (who was Glenn again? Good guy? Baddie? The Chosen One? The Ghost Who Walks?), is stupefyingly boring, extraordinarily silly (‘great’ FX work and makeup on that Golem!), and is entirely inexplicably awful.
Admittedly not all of the performances are atrocious, with Byrne and (surprisingly) Prochnow faring best (McKellen is surprisingly terrible and along with the overrated “Urban Cowboy” this is Glenn’s worst-ever work). The premise, if it weren’t so appallingly handled, might’ve really had something (I could see Hammer Studios having a crack at it, but it would still be pretty silly). Screenplay by the director, from the novel by F. Paul Wilson.
At least it all looks and sounds nice, thanks to the foggy atmosphere (full of terrific backlighting and shadows- all the stuff I love) captured by cinematographer Alex Thomson, and the sounds of Tangerine Dream (“Near Dark”) and their synth score.
One of the worst films made by a good director, but it might have cult value, especially if you love seeing good people make really bad career choices. That’s if it doesn’t send you to sleep.