Citadel Review

I’m not scared for I’m safe inside. I’m not scared but I think I’ll hide…

Ireland has been releasing some really wonderful gems for the horror genre. One of which I most enjoyed was Alarm. True, I’m Irish and may be a bit biased in their favor, but good is good even if I was a Luxembourger.

Ciaran Foy’s film Citadel is an amazing delve into a life of poverty and madness. The unnamed city in Eire is a powerful character in and of itself.

Just to explain the milieu, nothing in this community works. From social services to the locks on your door – nothing.  The city looks as if God had picked it up – and dropped it. The bus runs once a day (no petrol for proper routes). Most buildings are condemned and boarded. Blackouts happen city-wide more frequently than Downtown Pyongyang. Police won’t show up (but paramedics will brave the town). Cars burn for days on end and one must wonder if there even is a fire/rescue service. There’s one priest left and he’s cantankerous and possibly insane.

Foy doesn’t tell us if this is in the future after peak oil or the collapse of the Euro, but Gary, Indiana looks like heaven compared to this burg. And Gary is the ultimate shit hole. Sorry, but it is. As I watched, I wondered if everybody had bugged out or if this condition was nationwide, and frankly, I believe it to be a bit of both.

Aneurin Barnard (no, it’s not Elijah Wood) portrays unemployed mailman Tommy (the post only runs once a week now) who is preparing to deliver his pregnant wife to the hospital. Due to an elevator mishap (that, of course, doesn’t work either), she is brutally beaten by a congress of chavs who inoculate her with a syringe full of God-knows-what, thus plunging her into a coma. Think Lady Sovereign from hell.

The baby survives the assault – and this kid is adorable – as such, leaving Tommy a young, single father. Without hope for employment. In the middle of Hell.

Tommy is a wimp, like most of us. He was the kind of normal guy who just wanted to work and provide, but such opportunities were stripped from him due to this collapse. This is horror in its purest form. One scene that really bugged me depicted him half-ignoring his baby as she unwittingly played in their blacked-out living room, while he sat totally bewildered. God, that was rough to watch. It made Pisma Myortvogo Chelloveka look sunny.

As things go further south, he becomes concerned that Child Services will take her away. Of course, being cash-strapped, that is on the bureau’s to-do list and this young father knows it’s only a matter of time.

Already spooked to the dangers of his neighborhood, one night, the chavs return to terrorize him and his nerves ramp to full-blown agoraphobia. His fear becomes so intense that he insulates himself and his daughter in their bathroom at one point.

This is an important feature to the film as Barnard renders this fear with such amazing skill that he is akin to the unlucky priest who gets scheduled to the night shift at Carfax Abbey. In many ways, he is. These chavs aren’t… human. Think I Am Legend meets Eraserhead.

I’m not going to push any more plot points, but like most Irish works, the focus is on human relations with oneself and with others. Joyce may have examined depression, but Foy scrutinizes panic. Panic within and from out. Tommy is so afraid that his clueless baby girl begins to cry every time he holds her as she gets hip to the fact that something is horribly wrong. To be honest, I’ve never seen cinematic fear so genuine. Hell, I’d be freaked too!

This film reminds me of the impoverished horror of Bryant Delafosse’s novel The Mall. I’d love to see Ciaran Foy direct a rendition of that book.

This nugget is more sad than scary. Very sad. You won’t be able to help but feel for Tommy and his dwindling family as the young man descends into madness and attempts to take his sanity back in a world that no longer cares.

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