Director: Ciaran Foy
Starring: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo and Wunmi Mosaku
There’s an old saying in the business world that basically says if someone has a good experience somewhere, they’ll tell one person, and if they have a bad experience, they’ll tell ten people. If you go into a restaurant and have ONE terrible experience, you will probably never go back there. As much as we, as a society, try to keep our minds open and all people for who they are and what they believe, sometimes we have experience things that can be so traumatic, that someone might hold subconscious prejudices against groups of people. Even though others might just say they’re being paranoid, what if these people who have had traumatic experiences might actually be right about those people?
The apartment building that Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his pregnant wife live in has recently been condemned, forcing them to move out. On a day that could have been a new start to their lives, Tommy gets stuck in the old, broken elevator and is left helpless when he sees a group of young kids attacking his wife. When he’s finally able to get to his wife, the damage has been done, and although his daughter is able to be saved, his wife ends up in a coma due to an unknown infection. When we see Tommy 9 months later, we see his struggles with his debilitating fear of the outside world, not knowing when he’s going to run into another anonymous group of young hoodlums that could result in another violent encounter. Through his attempts at counseling to overcome his fears and visits to comatose wife, Tommy meets Marie (Wunmi Mosaku) who seems to be the first person able to help Tommy take steps towards debunking his fears. Tommy also meets a priest (James Cosmo) who Marie says is crazy, but this priest shows Tommy that he has good reason to fear what the outside world might hold, but explains that if he doesn’t conquer his fears, these forces might follow him forever. Whether it was Marie who was right about society turning a blind eye towards children in need or the priest who was right about these “kids” being something a little bit more supernatural, Tommy is the only one who can make that decision if he ever wants his daughter to live a safe, fulfilling life
Even though most of us haven’t had to deal with the trauma to the extent that Tommy’s character has gone through, we could all relate to those moments when , confronted with something we’ve associated negative experiences with, trying to determine whether it’s all in our heads or if we have good reason to be nervous. The way that the story played out was able to successfully walk that fine line in any sort of psychological thriller where the audience is unsure what images we’re privy to just for a scare and what things we’re seeing are also what the characters are experiencing. A lot of times, these types of horror movies negate everything you’ve seen in the movie at the end by saying everything was just going on in a character’s head and the audience feels like they wasted their time. On the other hand, the idea of psychological horror allows room for freedom from the laws of physics and logic, thus disregarding reality to have something surprise you. I’d say “Citadel” is one of only a few movies that successfully gives you both.
The weight of this movie rests strongly on Aneurin Barnard’s shoulders and he does his best to keep them film afloat. The earlier parts of the film, where we see Tommy struggling with barely being able to make his way through his front door, or when he locks himself in the bathroom after hearing and seeing what looks like a break-in, were able to showcase Barnard’s talents when it came to playing someone practically afraid of his own shadow. As the film went on, the tone went from that of psychological trauma to just being afraid of situations we’d all be afraid in, but that was based on the story rather than a detriment of Barnard’s abilities. It looked like James Cosmo got to have a lot of fun as the religious fanatic who just got to scream and yell a lot at the crazy things that were happening, but it’s a character we’ve seen before and in some cases have seen done better. One of the stronger performances was the priest’s kind of sort of adopted blind son Danny (Jake Wilson). Although he didn’t have that much screen time, his time was spent as either a wise sage offering comfort and guidance to other characters, while at other times reverting to what he really was, which was a scared little kid.
Although we’ve seen movies before like “Pet Semetary” or “Children of the Corn” or even more recently “The Children” where the antagonists are just little kids, “Citadel” managed to take a different spin on the concept and come up with something original. There was enough elements of the supernatural for me to enjoy the direction it went in, but I can see other people, who enjoyed the questioning or doubt of what’s real and what’s not, being unhappy with the tone the film went in. Although “Citadel” might not be for all audiences, for those of us who love the horror genre and are happy enough seeing a familiar concept getting a different twist, then this movie is definitely worth checking out.