Good news — someone is finally making smart, indie horror again. The new movie Citadel doesn't need torture porn, celebrities, buckets of blood, or jump scares to give you chills — it's just good anxiety-driven horror. After being attacked by a bunch of 14-year-olds and beaten with a hammer, writer/director Ciaran Foy channeled his struggles with anxiety disorder into this movie. And it really paid off.
After helplessly witnessing his pregnant wife's gruesome attack by a pack of hooded teens, main character Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) is left alone with his new born daughter, penniless and suffering from agoraphobia. He spends his days in an empty apartment, pushing his baby to and from the hospital (where his wife is in a coma) and to support-group meetings for post-traumatic stress disorder (among other things). The world he lives in (the film was shot in Glasgow) is bleak, colorless and empty. Every time he takes the bus (when he makes it) it's empty. The towers of low rent condos and townhouses in his neighborhood are all barren. It's almost as if Tommy is the only person in his world. Which just gives the audience a lot of quiet terrified alone time with Tommy. Eventually his monotonous journey of fear slowly becomes your fear. What's in the neighbor's house? Did we see something on the horizon? Have the hooded kids returned?
The answer is: Yes, yes they have. The kids (who don't reveal their hideous, mangled faces until later on in the picture) want Tommy's baby. And slowly they begin to appear on his doorstep, pop into his kitchen behind his back. And Tommy starts to lose his mind even more.
The movie derails slightly when a wacky old Priest (played by James Cosmo) shows up, with an all too convenient connection to the Hooded Pack. Together, the terrified Tommy and the Priest go to war with the teenage beasts and through their journey into the black towers of Glasgow, and a bit more about the monsters is revealed. But not too much, thankfully.
Truly the best part of this movie isn't the Hoods or the action, or the backstory, it's Tommy's struggle to get out of the house. This main character's struggle with agoraphobia is played perfectly on screen. It's never funny, or overdone — he doesn't spend hours being the wacky indoor kid but he did pace, stare at the door, and make horrible decisions dictated by his condition. For example, Tommy is so terrified to leave the house, when his front door is broken by the Hoods, he would rather lock himself in the bathroom with his baby than face another long walk alone outside. I assume this is due to the writer and director's own struggle with these issues. And in a movie about feral mutant teens, Tommy's actions and reactions feel exceptionally genuine.
Go see Citadel. It's a sharp little horror movie that has some seriously spooky scenes. It's not perfect, but watching one of Tommy's many freak-outs is worth the ticket price alone.