The Horror Honeys: Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

Fortress (1985)

While I may be a full-fledged, hardcore horror fan, I’m also a girl. Like most girls in 1983, I became captivated with the drama of the TV mini-series The Thorn Birds and all of its beautiful actors. Color me tickled when Meggie Cleary, herself, AKA Rachel Ward, was in another made-for-TV movie for HBO. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to have any lovely feels when watching Fortress. In fact, I was going to be bloody traumatized.

Australian school teacher, Sally Jones (Ward), oversees a rural schoolhouse with kids ranging in ages from kindergarteners to teenagers. As the students are about to start their day, four men in rubber masks wielding shotguns kidnap the entire lot. After a failed attempt at escape, the kidnappers display their seriousness by nearly killing one of the youngest children. Sally and the kids are taken to a remote cave where they are sealed in. 

Sally begins to organize the children. She was so smartly calm at the beginning of the ordeal, she convinced the kidnappers to let them bring their lunches, as well as a first aid kit. Sally totally MacGyvers some torches out of soda cans, salad dressing, and shoe strings and they find a way out. Once out of the cave, they try to make their way back to safety. They come upon a farm, but as they start to feel rescued, they discover the kidnappers are one step ahead and already at the farm. 

Fearing for their lives, Sally gets serious. With the assistance of some of the older boys, she devises a plan and it’s to kill or be killed. They fight their way out and hole up in a secure cave, but by morning, they realize the remaining men know exactly where they are and, like morons, announce from a distance, they will be back at nightfall to take care of them. With the time they have left, they create a fortress surrounded by spears and make weapons out of sticks and cans. When the kidnappers return, shit goes down Lord of the Flies style. 

Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.
Fortress is a low-budget revenge thriller and although it definitely isn’t a creature movie, there are monsters. While the kidnapping is never fully explained, it does reference a for-ransom reason. What is somewhat perplexing is why, since the kidnappers wear masks and their faces are never seen, even by the viewer until the end, they are so willing to go to the extreme of tracking them down and killing them. These guys are ruthless. They torment the eldest girl, Narelle, with potential sexual assault. Mind you, she’s all of 14. They also threaten Sally. One of the men even attempts an assault, but Sally isn’t having any of it.

The character of Sally Jones is a true heroine and Rachel Ward executes this brilliantly. Right from the jump, her only concern is the welfare of the children. When we first meet her, she appears to be a simple country girl, getting taken advantage of by the older kids, but when push comes to shove, she becomes a warrior, their leader (all in a skirt and blouse). The kids feed off of her strength and follow her into the darkness they’ve tried to escape the entire film. In the end, there is a visible shift in the dynamic of the relationship. 

This might be the worst thing I've ever seen ever in my life.
There is a fair amount of gore in the 3rd act, otherwise there is very little in the way of special effects, but that’s inconsequential. Fortress is fraught with tension and fear. You become so engrossed in the story and characters that the brutality of the climax is a huge release.

Spoke too soon.
I forgot I had a copy of this and gave it a watch last weekend. It holds up beautifully. 

Fortress is available on DVD and is worth the purchase.

Fun fact – Rebecca Rigg, who plays the timid Narelle, has been long married to the super hot Simon Baker (The Mentalist, L.A. Confidential). You go girl!

What movie traumatized you as a child?
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