There’s something about illness and affliction that really just enthralls me. Being someone who struggled with depression as a kid/teenager, I find films that deal with subjects like that and various other phobias/illnesses to be quite appealing, and interesting. It’s great to see character arcs that begin with someone being overwhelmed and unable to cope, to those characters having to stand up to what frightens them and to come out ahead. Ciaran Foy’s feature film debut CITADEL is a movie that not only does that, but leaves you with an impression made by the film, that stays around long after it is done.
CITADEL revolves around Tommy (Aneurin Barnard of THE FACILITY), a young man who lives with his pregnant wife and is getting ready to move out of a building that has recently been condemned. Tommy gets stuck in the building’s elevator and witnesses his wife being attacked by a gang of hooded thugs and is unable to help her until it is too late. She’s put into a coma and dies soon after giving birth to their daughter, whom Tommy is left to take care of alone. Due to the tragedy that has happened, Tommy has developed a severe case of agoraphobia, and is terrified of leaving his apartment. He struggles with going to a counselor for his affliction, and is unsure what it is and what it takes to be a father to his baby alone, until the hooded thugs return and begin to taunt Tommy, which has an added intensity to it, when a local priest tells Tommy that they’re not just normal punk ass thugs, but are demons. Already scared as hell by life, by being a father and by being without anyone to help him in life, Tommy begins to lock himself and his daughter in the bathroom, as the thugs break into their building, and more specifically, into their apartment. Eventually, the hooded thugs kidnap Tommy’s daughter, and with the help of the priest and a young blind boy, Tommy sets out to re-enter the building that his previous tragedy happened at, and to get his daughter back.
Why the film succeeds so well is a combination of many things. First off, Ciaran Foy does a very good job of making you feel for Tommy, almost as if you’re struggling with his affliction along with him. I haven’t felt as claustrophobic by a film since the first time I watched Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT. Watching CITADEL, you find yourself on the edge throughout the entire film, which might turn people who are already nervous off, but for suspense junkies like myself, it’s heaven incarnate. It’s also well written and definitely greatly acted, especially the performance of Aneurin Barnard as Tommy. At first it felt like I was watching Pete Doherty as an agoraphobic, but the visual similarities between the two wasn’t enough to take me out of it, and hot damn, is Barnard good in this film. He does such a great job making the viewer feel completely helpless along with Tommy, and when he finally decides that he’s tired of being afraid of life and of the thugs, you feel like you’ve accomplished overcoming your fears along with him.
Another very good touch to the film is the score by tomandandy (THE STRANGERS, I MELT WITH YOU, THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake). Those guys are cinematic gold as far as I’m concerned. Their scores have helped elevate movies to the next level and their work on CITADEL is no exception. The music helps establish such a dark, dreary tone for the film and never feels like a standard horror film score. As soon as I saw that they handled the score, I knew I was in for a treat, and it makes the film that much more terrifying and intense.
With CITADEL being Foy’s feature debut, how well he handled the movie and how non-amateurish it feels, makes me very optimistic and anxious to see what he has in store. If it’s anything like CITADEL, I’m definitely on board.
CITADEL is now available on DVD/BLURAY via Flatiron/Cinedigm/New Video.