Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tour Through A Bloody FORTRESS

Fortress, directed by Arch Nicholson, launches like a Disney live-action classic but descends into the delicious gore of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I started life with Disney movies. Easily, you could find me seated near siblings, ogling over a spinning VHS of Mary Poppins prancing, Aladdin flying, or Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick devising in Parent Trap. These happy movies made me an addict for more movies like them, especially the six-year-old me. Needless to say, I was eventually tricked, albeit with glee.

It begins with Sid (Sean Garlick), a pre-teen whose growing aptitude with a rifle enables him to eliminate the fox stealing his chickens. With one shot, we witness Sid’s elevation into manhood, but we also observe his childish excitement as he shares his success with his family. The household includes parents Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien (Laurie Moran and Elaine Cusick), little brother Tommy (Marc Aden Gray) and school teacher Sally Jones (Rachel Ward). After a hefty breakfast following Sid’s success; he, Tommy and Sally head to school.

Vacation is around the corner, much to Sally and the students’ delight. We listen to most of their plans, which offers insight into their various ages and personalities. But shortly after we are introduced to them, four masked gunmen rush the school. Lunch sacks in hand, Sally and the students are driven to a far-off cave that the captors seal with an immense rock. Innovation and luck allow the class to find a way out. Back under the sun, Sally and the students tread for miles before finding a house. An elderly couple opens the door. Behind them are the gunmen. This time, tired of hiding and running, Sally and the kids come to the same conclusion: bloodshed is the only way this ends.

This film is set in Australia, where we are taken from a farm, through the woods, and Fortress hostage into a dark cave. Cinematographer David Connell, whose recent work includes Dean Devlin’s film Bad Samaritan and numerous episodes of Leverage, succeeded in Fortress’s challenge of filming in the darkest interiors and the brightest exteriors. The cave presented the biggest challenge as the setting for more than 20% of the film. Not only was insufficient light an apparent concern, but capturing contrasting emotions of hopelessness and triumph under darkness seemed effortless for Connell.

Fortress also allowed us to see a strong woman break down in fear. At one point, I distrusted Rachel Ward’s portrayal of a woman who wouldn’t break down under these circumstances. However, when she finally did, it pained me to witness it.

The movie gave the message of overcoming fear. At a certain point, you just have to stop running. Even the littlest kid became fed up with being chased, practically shining his knee in preparation for the first pair of adult balls he could attack. Furthermore, you see the power in numbers and how that power, with the right leader, can overcome most obstacles. You sensed Sally’s gradual transformation from teacher to mother of this pack. The children surrounded her whenever they felt that she was threatened, especially in the final scene. The police pressed Sally, asking her to tie up loose ends regarding their captors mangled or missing body parts. Eventually, surrounded by the class, the police hesitated out of the classroom without further inquiry.

This movie is a great thriller with horror undertones. To watch a school teacher and her students change the script on their captors left me searching for a teacher like Sally for years. I eventually had to settle for numerous re-watches of this film to decrease my desire. So, if you have yet to watch Fortress, find it as soon as you can. It’s an intense, must-see film for the back to school season! Point Blank. Period.

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