Fortress (1986)

If you’re a fan of “Lord of the Flies”, “Battle Royale”, or just hostage thrillers in general, that is a very rare film to find, one that may be lost if time has its way. The film, based on a true story, is not only just a hostage thriller reminiscent of stories like “The Most Dangerous Game”, but in the end, ends up becoming a truly cautionary tale on what kids, with the right influence from adults, and pushed far enough to the edge, are capable of without conscience. Directed by Arch Nicholson, this is a very tense and engrossing thriller that calls for the wits of a young teacher named Sally, played by the decent Rachel Ward. Sally is a character that never really loses her cool in the face of danger and ends up becoming a very primal influence on the children she teaches, whom in the end, end up becoming deadlier than they seem.

Sally, teaches her class on the countryside every day dealing with the usual tribulations a teacher would face, but one day they’re faced with a group of masked armed gunmen who appear at their school and take the entire class hostage. The group, led by “Father Christmas”, a man dressed in a creepy Santa mask, take the group in a van and hide the class in a cave. Sally, angered by their situation and distressed by the possibility of the captors killing the kids to get what they want, decides to find a way out and uses the children and their skills to find a way to survive and end up discovering a way out of the cave and flee. But when, in a surprising plot twist, they’re captured, Sally and the children decide that they’re not running anymore and strike back at the killers.

If you’re excited by the plot, then you’re not alone, this was a great film and an exciting thriller. Each child has their own personality and individual trait which allow them to fight back, some can operate guns (being hunters for their farms), some can mold spears (farm life), and some know how to fight. The film never really slows its pace down, the story is very tight and really manages to keep up the tension as long as possible until the final battle. The film is admittedly is cheesy in certain spots like when they sing, and the children are grating on the ears from time to time, but the film is relatively flawless and still holds up. Some of you with the attention span below twenty years would be wise to give this a chance. Rachel Ward gives a very good performance as the leader who manages to organize her children and bonds with them teaching them how to survive, while the villains become relatively faceless beneath the creepy masks.

The masks which are usually very sweet to children end up becoming specters of horror for these children, and they end up taking charge, especially in the incredibly tense and exciting climax that really gives us what we want. The film meanwhile has a great story that never keeps us bored, and there are some really gruesome gory moments. In the end, the final twenty minutes leading to an utterly morbid and shocking last scene, really confirm what this film really is all about and you’re left with a sense of attempting to figure out what happened to these children and what caused them to pull off this feat, and it’s an ending that will surely stick with you as it did me.