Wednesday 17 January 2018

Gloomy city tale

Paul Whitington

Film Review: Citadel (16, general release, 84 minutes) 3 STARS

Director: Ciaran Foy Stars: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Amy Shiels, Wunmi Mosaku, Ingrid Craigie

Horror films are all about establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of dread, and writer/director Ciaran Foy does it remarkably well in this gothically gloomy feature debut. You just know that things are going to go badly wrong for happy young couple Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and Joanne (Amy Shiels).

She is heavily pregnant, and they are about to leave the crime-ridden block of high-rise flats that have made their lives miserable when tragedy strikes.

While Tommy is stuck in a malfunctioning lift, he sees a group of hooded kids attack Joanne and stab her in the stomach with a dirty syringe.

She goes into a coma from which she never recovers, but the child survives and a devastated Tommy is left to look after it. He doesn't do well.

Witnessing the attack has left him with a bad case of agoraphobia: fear leaves him a prisoner in his own home, and his worst nightmares become real when the kids who killed Joanne begin appearing around the house.

Help arrives in the kindly form of local nurse Marie (Wunmi Mosaku). She moves Tommy and the baby to her own house, and tries to persuade him that the world is not quite as scary a place as he thinks it is. Marie likes to think the best of people, and tells him that "it's easy to demonise these kids – they need our sympathy". But in Foy's universe, her faith in human nature is seriously misplaced.

Citadel is partly inspired by a horrific attack its director suffered as an 18-year-old, and perhaps understandably, a bleak nihilism dominates his film.

Foy's politics might not be to everyone's taste, but there's no denying the visual power of Citadel, nor the fine performance by Welsh actor Barnard.

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