Yesterday, I asked on my Facebook page what survival movies people particularly liked. I got the usual, expected responses:
–Mad Max, The Road Warrior
–The Book of Eli
–I Am Legend
No one, other than myself, brought up this great little flick from 1989 called Survival Quest.
Lance Henriksen, one of my all-time favorite actors, plays wilderness survival instructor Hank Chambers. The outfit for which he works is sort of an Outward Bound type of school, where he takes a small group of students out into the wilderness for several days, teaching them not only wilderness skills but how to work together as a team. He is sort of a mountain man type, preferring to work with nature instead of doing battle against it. His class this time around consists of several relatively normal people, each with their own quirks and such. Among these are a recent divorcee, the requisite smart ass, and a convict whose parole hinges upon his successful completion of the course.
At the same time, there is another group of students being taught skills in the forest. Led by tyrannical “survivalist” Jake Cannon, the class reminds me of the sort of schools that used to advertise in Soldier of Fortune magazine. They are being taught ways to stalk sentries and take them out with knives, that sort of thing. One of the students, going by the nickname Raider, is particularly enthralled with these more violent types of exercises.
Realizing quickly that the groups are having to share the forest, Cannon makes a point of using Hank’s students as targets for his class. They are shot at with paintball guns and stalked frequently. At one point, there is a brief confrontation between Hank and Cannon, which ends up embarrassing the latter character, making him even more determined to get revenge.
Things come to a head when Hank is shot with a real gun by one of Cannon’s students. Cannon, having not intended things to go that far, begins to assault the trigger man, Raider. He defends himself by stabbing Cannon in the neck, then telling his classmates that Cannon was killed by one of Hank’s students. Raider then leads his group in an all out attack on Hank’s group.
Believing Hank to be dead, his students attempt to get back to the home base, a small airfield. Using skills they’ve been taught, they work to survive off the land until they reach safety.
I’ll not spoil the final act of the movie. Suffice to say, it is all wrapped up in the end. “Fire is nature’s cleanser.”
While this movie didn’t do anything spectacular in the theaters, I quite liked it. In particular, the lesson (though they do sort of beat you over the head with it) is that nature isn’t a force to be conquered. Rather, it is to be respected.
Unfortunately, Survival Quest isn’t available on Netflix, at least through the instant streaming feature. But, if you look around a bit, I’m sure you can find a used DVD copy fairly cheap. It is worth the hunt, trust me.