Toronto After Dark, Day 5: Citadel
There are two types of film plots that are very hard to get right: anything involving time travel, and horror with rules. Both ask you to submit to a central conceit that should make the rest of the proceedings more plausible. Time travel is naturally by far the more difficult of the two, as the conceit must exist within natural law, and the paradoxes tend to quickly pile up. Horror mostly just takes some attention to detail.
Citadel is rooted in the personal experience of the director, Ciaran Foy, who was attacked by hooded adolescents in the bad part of town. The film opens on a young couple, Tommy and his pregnant wife Joanne, as they are moving out of the condemned building in which they have lived. Trapped in an elevator, he can only watch as she is attacked by hooded thugs and left to die. We race ahead to eight months later, and he is raising his newborn daughter alone, barely able to cope with a newfound case of agoraphobia.
Tommy is played by a young Welsh actor by the name of Aneurin Barnard, who is exceptionally good in the role. He is a broken man, his expressions and body language constantly speaking to his intense fear of the world around him.
The neighbourhood in which he lives is desolate and oppressive, currently scheduled for a restoration that may or may not ever happen. It is the sort of place where the buses no longer come, except for one a day, likely mandated. He is eager to escape, to a better place to raise his child, once he is done burying his dead wife. But before he can do so, the hooded men return.
The conceit of the film is that there are creatures who can see fear. Tommy, in his state, shines like a neon sign to them. However, in actual practice, this requirement seems to come and go as is convenient for the plot to move forward and the actual parameters to be seen varies wildly. A few omissions would be okay, but the scripting is very haphazard in this regard.
Which is a shame, because Citadel gets a lot of things right. The setting of the mood is sublime, the entire film draped in desolation and tension. There were a couple great screams from the audience after some well placed shock horror elements, and as mentioned the acting of the lead character is superb.
I only wish the plot itself made a bit more sense. Why does the priest need him again? Perhaps I should stop overthinking my horror films. Or should I?
2.5 out of 5 stars.