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Niels Arden Oplev directing film adaptation of Jennifer Egan’s “The Keep”

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
October 27th, 2010

CBS Films has picked THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO director Niels Arden Oplev to helm the big screen adaptation of Jennifer Egan’s novel The Keep. The script has been penned by Ehren Kruger (THE SKELETON KEY), who first wrote his take on it back in 2006. The project was then in the hands of Rogue Pictures, but CBS Films has now taken over the rights.

The Hollywood Reporter’s posting on the adaptation describes the book as “THE RING meets INCEPTION,” which isn’t quite fair to the story. While atmospherically somewhat close to the tension of THE RING, and delving into the same psychological feel of INCEPTION, the book is not some sort of “painfully generic horror movie.” It’s quite far from it, in fact.

The novel, ostensibly enough, revolves around two reunited cousins. The logline you will get from people who are not familiar with the book is that the book focuses on the cousins, Howie and Danny, who come back together to renovate a castle (to one day turn it into a profitable business). You may also hear mention of some terrible act in their past that haunts them and influences what happens to them at the castle. This, surely, sounds standard. But it also, surely, has very little to do with what The Keep is really about.

I may be an easy scare when it comes to the cinematic, but I am rarely terrified by books. I am not afraid to admit that the last third of Egan’s book rendered me almost immobile in fear. In the last portion of her novel, Egan creates a scenario so horrifying, and then pushes it so close to the reader, that I almost couldn’t read anymore, because I was basically paralyzed in fear and unable to lift the goddamn book up to continue reading. The only thing that made my continued reading possible was the fact that NOT reading it was impossible. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep, I wouldn’t have been able to breathe if I didn’t get through this one section. I might possibly have died. It’s that damn horrifying.

What makes this particular scene even more chilling is that it almost, in a strange way, comes out of nowhere. The entire book itself is surely scary, it’s not a relaxing read, but when Egan brings the full horror to the forefront, you realize she’s been holding out on you this entire time, teasing you, lulling you. Egan succeeds in creating palatable terror because her novel, while wildly supernatural, is also completely believable. Even as you’re reading about ghosts and premonitions and careening between time and place and losing your bearing at the turn of every page, there’s not a false note anywhere. It’s magic. It’s bewitching. If done correctly on the screen, it will be an absorbing film, close to something like SHUTTER ISLAND at its darkest.

And then, after Egan has paralyzed her readers with fear and twisted them up in plot, she then ruins all of it. She pulls the entire thing together in such a way that you realize that everything you just read is false. It can’t be real. But here’s where my words fail me. Even as Egan “ruins” it, even as she tears down everything she’s just given you, it still feels real. Even as she is telling you in no uncertain terms that you have just spent 150 pages reading a million things that are some sort of double make-believe (the first make-believe, of course being that entertainment as it stands is its own brand of fakery), you can’t let it go. You want Egan’s double betrayal to cancel itself out and make The Keep real. And then you realize that, for some people, it is still real. For Egan it is. Just check out the Keep’s website.

If this elongated review of the book has not already bashed you over the head with my thoughts, allow me to make it clear – I loved this book and I cannot wait to see it on screen.

Egan also wrote Look at Me and The Emerald City. This will be the first of her novels to get the film treatment, and I think it’s a fine choice.

Source THR - Risky Business, via First Showing

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