CIARON FOY’s CITADEL (2012) is a movie about fear, particularly debilitating fear. ANEURIN BARNARD plays Tommy, a man who witnesses a violent and ultimately fatal attack upon his pregnant wife by hooded youths. The unborn baby survives but Tommy’s perception of the world does not. Everywhere he looks he sees his wife’s attackers and they appear to be multiplying and taking on hideous unnatural forms. He becomes convinced that the suddenly BROOD-esque troll squad want to snatch his baby and he’s terrified that he’ll fail again at protecting his own. Sympathetic nurse Marie (WUNMI MOSAKU) tries her best to pull the movie back into the realm of reality (where Tommy’s suspicions can be attributed to post traumatic stress) but writer/director FOY shoos her away with a lead pipe and we’re left trapped in the world built by Tommy’s psychosis where the only way out (sorry, shotguns, chainsaws and quippy one-liners) is facing his fear head on.
Now this a horror movie. As frustrating as it may be to some viewers, here is a film that is not afraid to delve into feelings of powerlessness and doesn’t let you off the hook with fantasy heroics. It plays out like a nightmare, the kind where you want to move your legs but can’t, the kind where you need to protect something other than yourself and fail, the kind where things don’t always go your way and your best option could be to simply hide and hope you’re not seen. We’re not traveling the pandering pay-off strewn path of mainstream cinema, we’re being lead by the nose through the trenches of mental distress and raging paranoia where frankly, you’re anxiety’s bitch. One of the reasons FOY isn’t tied to selling the old “we can all lift trucks off of babies when we really need to” theory, may be because he himself was the victim of a brutal attack at the age of 18 and suffered the psychological effects first hand. CITADEL isn’t the story of what happened, it’s a purging of what it felt like happened and that’s what makes it so solid and substantial. Through Tommy and HOY’s eyes, buildings come across as giant tombstones, tunnels become crypts, doors resemble glass coffins and dread is omnipresent. I’d put this one up on the shelf next to JACOB’S LADDER and POLANSKI‘s REPULSION and I thank HOY for sharing something that horror fans too often cower from, the true fallout of fear.