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One Man and a Baby – ★★★★

Citadel is a tense horror from director Ciaran Foy and it turns out that his first feature is almost a mini autobiography. Foy was subjected to a terrible attack as a teenager where a gang beat him with a hammer and held a syringe against his throat. Understandably this left him unable to leave the house and caused him to suffer from agoraphobia.

The film concerns a similar matter. Tommy’s (Aneurin Barnard) wife is stabbed with a syringe by a group of hooded youths, Tommy must look on in horror while trapped in a lift. His wife then falls into a comma but manages to deliver their child. He is then faced with fatherhood, being a widower and a crippling fear of open spaces. Sound familiar? Well not quite but it’s obvious to see how moments from Foy’s past give an informed take on the trials of dealing with agoraphobia. Aneurin Barnard gives a fantastic portrayal of how he is driven to distraction, unable to look at the front door without breaking down in a sweat. Foy said how originally he envisaged Tommy on his own and added the child in later. A wise decision as the innocence of the child against the so called “scum” of the towers heightens every scene causing you to tighten into knots.

Knock knock

Knock Knock

Tommy meets up with Priest (James Cosmo), who informs him the hoodies will be back to take the child and finish what they started. Priest offers the only real sense of light relief, being a total caricature of the wily old gruff man who really knows what’s going on. Hell bent on wiping them off the face of the earth, Priest becomes Tommy’s only hope of relief from his crippling nightmare. Priest also fills in on the background to why all this is happening and we learn there is something far more sinister to these track suited teenagers. It’s a tad daft but is forgivable, as what horrors aren’t and it more than makes up for it in shocks and suspense.

With a certain element of the fantastical, Citadel is firmly rooted in a horror we can all identify with from living in inner cities. Many of us have felt intimidated or vulnerable at different times and here that feeling is exploited and cranked up beyond belief. It can also be viewed in the light of the terror some men feel in becoming fathers and with many interpretations possible this is certainly a credit to the writing also done by Foy. One could be worried that this is a black and white indictment of all youths in hoods or junkies but, as Foy mentions, all the action takes place within the flats against people who live there and grew up within the area. He was sick of seeing the middle classes (Eden Lake, a film he cited) being attacked by a bunch of oiks.

It’s always pleasant to see a horror that isn’t a reboot, remake or brimming over with torture prom masquerading as horror. Citadel is an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable film for any fan of the genre.

Ireland, UK  /  Directed By: Ciaran Foy  /  Written By: Ciaran Foy   /  Starring: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku /  84min  /  Horror, Thriller  /  Release: 21 June 2013 (Ireland)