What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #54 (Horror Edition): Fortress (dir. by Arch Nicholson)

Yesterday morning, after I woke up at 3 in the morning and simply could not get back to sleep, I ended up watching a 1985 film from Australia on Cinemax.  The name of that film?  Fortress.

Why Was I Watching It?

The main reason I ended up watching it was because I woke up way too early and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Once I accepted the fact that 1) I wasn’t going to get back to sleep and 2) I was going to be a very tired girl by the time I got off work, it just made sense to watch a movie.  While there were over a 100 films playing on TV around three in the morning, I ended up watching Fortress because it was the only one I had never heard of.  Add to that, the cable guide both identified the film as a horror film and told me that the film was released the same year I was born.  Seriously, how couldn’t I watch?

What’s It About?

Fortress tells the story of what happens when a teacher (played by Rachel Ward) and her class are kidnapped by a bunch of a mask-wearing thugs.  When Ward and her students manage to escape from their captors, they find themselves being pursued through the Australian outback.  Finally, both the teacher and her students start to fight back and, in the best tradition of a 70s grindhouse film, eventually reveal themselves to be just as a savage as their enemies.

What Worked?

I have to admit that I was actually surprised that I had never heard of Fortress  before because it’s a surprisingly well-made film.  Ward gives an excellent performance in the lead role and the actors playing her students are all natural and very believable.  Best of all, the film’s villains are completely believable and sincerely frightening.  The gimmick of having them all wear masks actually works surprisingly well.  Their leader wears a Father Christmas mask and the contrast between his harsh manner and his jolly mask makes for some chilling moments.

I have to admit that, at first, I was wondering why this film was classified as being a horror film.  After all, there were no supernatural monsters and, even if the bad guys were wearing masks, they were still obviously human.  But, as the film progressed, I realized that the film was a true horror film.  It was scary because it was real.  It was scary because, unlike so many other horror films, it dealt with the type of situation that could happen to anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Also, there was a scene where Rachel Ward was attempting to swim to safety and her character nearly drowned.  As regular readers of the site may know, I have a very intense fear of drowning and, needless to say, the sight of Ward underwater and frantically struggling to reach the surface made me go, “Agck!”

What Didn’t Work

It all worked.  Some of that, undoubtedly, had to do with the fact that I was watching the film at 3 in the morning.


I would like to hope that, if I ever found myself in a similar situation, I would be as strong and courageous as the teacher was in this film.  That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I like to think that I would at least try to make the effort.

That said, I mostly identified with the poor girl who, while hiding from the kidnappers, bursts into tears and explains to Ward, “Sorry, miss, it’s the curse.” Seriously, that would be just my luck.

Lessons Learned:

I need to work on my swimming.

3 responses to “What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #54 (Horror Edition): Fortress (dir. by Arch Nicholson)

  1. At first I thought you watched the Christopher Lambert film Fortress then realized that one wasn’t a horror but scifi that was similar to this Spring’s Lockout. Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular Fortress. Looks like I m ust change that.


  2. This movie was actually made-for-television, however, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. I notice that Vernon Wells (“Mad Max 2”, “Commando”) is in the credits. I’ll have to look for this in the Australian section at the video store or the public library.

    There must be a veritable treasure trove of relatively obscure Australian films gathering dust somewhere. Some of them aren’t even available on DVD (hence recommending certain titles might prove redundant). We do weird and colourful films as well as anybody.


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