Elizabeth Bayne, a filmmaker who has spent over ten years working in video production for the University of Southern California and various organizations in the wellness and public health sector found inspiration for her own entry into the horror genre while home for the holidays in Hampton, Virginia. She was jogging by a fort, the famous Fort Monroe, a historical military installation known for being used as a war defense location and even its role in freeing slaves before the Civil War. With a myriad of 'what if's' swimming in her brain, The Fortress, the name of her idea-turned-screenplay became one of the Top 10 Finalists for the Clive Barker presents Reel Fear Horror Contest. Its premise aligns next to some of the most notable revenge films of the past such as I Spit On Your Grave (1978). When Elizabeth's main character goes jogging along this same location, she is taken captive for sadistic acts but manages to escape and endure an unpleasant test that throws a wrench in her faith of the United States criminal justice system.
Elizabeth spoke candidly about how she felt at Fort Monroe and seeing it through a creative lens. "The place felt completely deserted. Looking out over the moat that surrounds the fort, I became acutely aware of how isolated I was. In these situations, my imagination instantly goes to the worse thing that could happen. And to me that was being held captive in one of those old buildings and no one knowing where to find me. Then that brought me to the thought of thousands of black women who go missing in the U.S. without much fanfare or media attention. I remember patting my pocket to be sure my cell phone was still there and checking that I had full reception. After that, I returned a couple more times to take photos of the fort before returning to Los Angeles to write. The architecture is incredibly inspiring; very gothic, mossed over stone, darkened from age, rusted iron gates that lead to pitch black tunnels to nowhere. It brought to mind endless possibilities for violence, torture, and fear."
I finished the script in about three months after returning to Los Angeles. I started with an outline marking pivotal scenes that I knew had to be in the film and that were inspired by actual locations on the fort. From there I fleshed out characters who could make the world real and developed scenes that drove the storyline, the arcs and the body count. I was also able to sprinkle in some social commentary about gun culture, police brutality, and sexual assault. To date, The Fortress is the closest I’ve come to realizing a creative vision in script form."
What may seem too familiar in concept is only a reflection on our history and the very real question; has humanity truly evolved? Elizabeth explains, "The story in The Fortress is best told as a horror because of the heinous nature of the crime committed against Audie, the protagonist, and the violent retribution that she enacts. The pain and anger that she’s exercising requires a physical release of tension that’s best suited to the genre. Blood must spill to release the pressure and weight that that kind of violation can place on a victim’s psyche. In real life, we don’t always see justice served, but in horror, the poetic justice can flow freely. The blood she spills in vengeance is symbolic and represents the real-life social ills we often feel powerless to address."
I’m looking forward to seeing the remake of It. I remember my brother and I sitting in excited anticipation to see the film on VHS as kids. The build and tension felt very slow and we had to watch it several times before we could sit through the whole thing as kids, because we usually got bored before the clown finally appeared. I’m curious about re-watching it now to see how it holds up."
Although The Fortress didn't make it to the next round in the Reel Fear contest, we are deeply committed to encouraging Elizabeth to follow this project to completion. If this sounds like something you'd love to see, please send Elizabeth your support on Twitter (@graybayne) and follow the rest of her work via the resources below.