It’s a scary world we live in and as if we didn’t have enough to worry about with war, recession and sports athletes with fake dead girlfriends, Ciaran Foy introduces more reasons to look over your shoulder- an apartment complex infested with feral children. The idea of feral individuals isn’t new in and of itself, but the structure of Foy’s film is tight, tense and atmospheric. Sound is often key to a horror film especially when it comes to delivering scares and making the hair on the back of your neck stand straight CITADEL delivers chills in spades.
The film explores a man’s intense struggles with agoraphobia after his pregnant wife is attacked by a group of kids. He rushes her to the hospital where the baby is delivered and the wife remains in a coma. Fast forward several months the father, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard), has developed his fear of the outside world, but is also left to care for his daughter alone whilst he suffers from his fears. Eventually he is lead to believe that the grotesque feral children that attacked his wife are going to return to take his daughter from him and he must do everything he can to protect and save his daughter from the threat.
CITADEL is full of extremely well framed shots, great cinematography and sound design, but the anchor of the film is the performance from Aneurin Barnard. His portrayal of someone suffering from agoraphobia is powerful at times, but at the same time the sound design and look of the world he lives in has a tendency to make someone dread what’s about to happen as much as he does. In the end the emotional peak of the film is so well done that the growth of his character is nothing if not moving and harrowing.
The entire film has an aesthetic that reminded me of ATTACK THE BLOCK, which is anyone knows my undying love of that film may understand why I’m as taken by CITADEL- the key difference being that there are no aliens in CITADEL and the overall conflict is entirely different. This film also takes itself its material dead serious, until you get to the priest character and things start feeling a little less drama/thriller and more supernatural and even a little more sinister while also being kind of silly. Regardless, the film still withstands these nitpicks to still be a pretty creepy and troubling bit of entertainment.
The opening scene while it sets up the rest of the film incredibly well also lead me to expect something a little faster paced. It may be no one’s fault of my own, but the next hour of film moved a lot slower than I was expecting- not a complaint in general as the scenes remain tense and entertaining even without balls to the wall action/horror.
CITADEL is the type of horror/thriller that flies under most filmgoer’s radars as it is not the stuff Hollywood cranks into theaters week after week, but is a release discovered by word of mouth and browsing on the DVD shelves. It’s not made for people with short attention spans that crave constant action, but it is a rewarding find for anyone with a taste for low budget horror with a bite. CITADEL is propelled by a fantastic lead performance, atmospheric settings and an emotional journey that’s as sympathetic as it is frustrating. Foy’s exploration of a condition he himself suffered from contains immense honesty in a truly horrific of embellished scenario.
Written by: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)