Director: Ciaran Foy
Starring: Aneurin Barnard (‘Ironclad,’ ‘The Facility’), James Cosmo (TV’s ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ ‘Game of Thrones’), Wunmi Mosaku (TV’s ‘Law and Order: UK’) and Amy Shiels (‘Slaughter’)
People can become so distressed after surviving a traumatizing experience that they lose all faith in humanity and the will to live. But their need to protect their loved ones from experiencing the same fate can become so overpowering that they’re driven to do whatever it takes to save their lives. This is certainly the case with the main character, Tommy Cowley, in the new Irish horror thriller ‘Citadel,’ which will be released in select theaters on Friday. Based on true events experienced by first time feature film writer and director, Irish native Ciaran Foy, when he was in college, the movie takes an eerie look into the emotional and daring efforts people take in order to survive the aftermath of a traumatic event.
‘Citadel’ follows Tommy (played by Aneurin Barnard), who lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his pregnant wife, Joanne (portrayed by Amy Shiels). On the day they’re set to move out, Joanne is fatally attacked by a group of feral children. Tommy becomes so traumatized by the events that he locks himself and their newborn daughter in his new flat in the dilapidated suburb of Edenstown. He subsequently develops agoraphobia as a result of his trauma, and most learn how to assimilate back into society and trust other people.
Tommy soon finds himself terrorized by the same group of children, who are determined to take his daughter. He seeks the help of an understanding nurse, Marie (played by Wunmi Mosaku), and a vigilante priest (portrayed by James Cosmo), to free himself of his fears, and once again enter the place he fears the most-the abandoned tower block known as the Citadel that used to be his home.
As a first time feature film writer and director who had a limited budget and a short 23-day shoot, Foy wasn’t afraid to take risks, from using run-down locations to how he shot the cinematography to taking dialogue suggestions from his cast. The director genuinely emphasized Tommy’s fear of reentering society and learning to trust strangers again after the fatal attack on Joanne through the decrepit condition of the Citadel, particularly after the feral children assumed control over the building. While Tommy’s new flat where he was raising his young daughter was simplistic and void of any personality, as he was truly afraid to connect with another home again, the Citadel was contrastingly dark and decaying, providing the perfect location for the feral children to hide. The main reason Tommy was afraid to return to his former home was the fact that he had no idea where the children actually were in the Citadel, and what kind of physical terror they would unleash on him again.
When Tommy did finally muster up the courage to return to the Citadel with the priest, the quick, unique camera angles and muted, dark tones of his surroundings emotionally reflected his fear of society. The streets in Tommy’s neighborhood, especially the ones leading up to the Citadel were forbidding and reemphasized his fear of the unknown, particularly with the numerous, aptly placed shadows. Cinematographer Tim Fleming also gave audiences an extra insight into Tommy’s fears of society by continuously showing the protagonist’s neighborhood through his eyes. Whenever Tommy started feeling a sense of anxiety over what could possibly happen to him, the camera would intriguingly provided unique shots of his surroundings.
Despite the short shooting schedule and limited budget, Foy bravely did take some suggestions from his cast, and truly listen to the actor’s opinions on how to develop their characters, to give them a more authentic feel. For example, the filmmaker regularly listened to Cosmo’s suggestions on how to make the priest more stimulating and interesting, since he is a more of a supporting character to Tommy. Instead of giving detailed explanations on his life, particularly before he became a priest, and why he’s now so blunt and direct with Tommy, Cosmo would just say his life has turned him into the man he is today. As Barnard regularly developed realistic reasons why Tommy is afraid of society, Cosmo thrived in the secret motivations of the frank, and at times insensitive, priest.
‘Citadel’ is a mysterious, intriguing horror thriller from the first-time writer-director Foy, who courageously drew on his own personal experiences as a college student in Ireland to tell a universal story of fear. Despite having a short shooting schedule and limited budget, the filmmaker still used authentic, run-down locations, fascinating cinematography and truly listened to his cast and embraced their dialogue suggestions, to help give Tommy’s story an authentic feeling. The movie is an intimate portrait into the recovery of a new father, struggling to overcome his agoraphobia, and defeat the feral children who tore apart his family, in order to provide a good home and life for his newborn daughter.
Written by: Karen Benardello