The Keep by F. Paul Wilson (2006)
Author F. Paul Wilson has always been vitriolic regarding the 1983 film version of his novel. “Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible” is one of his more sedate quotes. Michael Mann’s adaptation of the 1981 bestseller is a curiosity in itself, which I will not discuss at great length here. Suffice to say that I may write an extended piece on its troubled history and many versions, at some point in the future. In 2006 F. Paul Wilson scripted a graphic novel version of his book with artwork drawn by Matthew Dow Smith, of Hellboy fame. In the foreword F. Paul Wilson states “I consider this visual presentation of The Keep my version of the movie, what could have been... what should have been.”
In April of 1941 a message is sent to German High Command from an Army Captain stationed in a remote castle keep in the Dinu Pass high in the Transylvanian Alps. “Something is murdering my men.” A Nazi SS extermination squad is dispatched as it is assumed that this is the work of partisans. A Jewish History Professor, Theodore Cuza and his daughter Magda, are forced by SS Sturmbannfuhrer Eric Kaempffer to provide background information and help with the investigation. The professor is useful at first in translating a mysterious message that has been written in an ancient Romanian dialect. It is not long before he encounters the malevolent force that is loose in the keep. Cuza fails to grasp that the being is not a mere vampire but actually something much worse. It is at this time that a stranger appears in the village as if summoned by the ongoing events.
The Keep works exceptionally well as a graphic novel and the minimalist artwork ideally suits the plot and characters. This is a story that would have suffered if the art work had over embellished the storyline. In its existing form the reader is given enough visual data but still has scope to use their imagination. This adaptation retains all the important aspects and themes of the source novel. If there is a weakness, it is that the ending is a little low key. Contemporary readers may be expecting something a little more spectacular. However this minor flaw can be overlooked as the story as a whole is engaging and offers an interesting perspective on a traditional genre.
In an age of poor film adaptations, it would be nice to see more authors using this medium as a means of adaptation. The graphic novel is extremely flexible format and can accommodate a wide variety of literary genres without having to compromise on dialogue or depth. They’re also ideal for tablets and other mobile platforms. If you are a fan of the horror genre then this version of F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep comes highly recommended.