Citadel (2012) – or – Hoodie horror.

There hadn’t been such a fully fleshed out film at Toronto After Dark this year until Citadel screened. Creepy and creative with a little bit of humour, this film is one of the best so far.

Preparing to leave their apartment one day, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his pregnant wife Joanne (Amy Shiels) are attacked by a group of vicious hooded kids. This leaves Joanne in a coma, although their daughter is born without complications. Nine months later, Tommy is suffering from severe agoraphobia and struggling to raise his daughter. When the same group of kids begins to terrorize him again and kidnap his daughter, Tommy must face his fears to rescue her and stop these monstrous kids.

What helped the film become something more was an introduction from festival director Adam Lopez. He recalled a story about the director, Ciaran Foy, and how this film was partly inspired by an attack he suffered at the hands of a group of teens. That lends the film a personal touch that only enhances the effect. It also greatly affects the the power of the hooded thugs attacks. There aren’t a lot of moments where these monster thugs appear, but when they do it has the impact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did. The violence is sudden and brutal, but never prolonged. It begins and ends within a moment, making it seem even more shocking than it actually is.

Tommy must protect his daughter from child monsters.

The majority of the film is focused on Tommy and his fear. The attack on his pregnant wife has left him scarred, and he rarely is able to leave the house. The hooded thugs can sense fear, leaving Tommy extremely vulnerable because his is so intense. There are so many different ways to look at the film, that it almost becomes a challenge to really understand. On the surface, it’s a straight forward monster film. Tommy must overcome his fear to be able to survive the hooded thugs and save his daughter. You don’t have to look very deeply to see the various things those thugs represent. It certainly sparks conversation, and a second viewing would allow a person to pay attention for the more subtle moments.

The hooded thugs aren't exactly human.

Aneurin Barnard does an incredible job in the lead role. His fear is so real, and it will consume viewers. For anybody who has dealt with a fear that seems irrational, there are plenty of moments to connect with. This is also a character that you don’t see as often. Tommy is a young man and a single father, not exactly what you may be used to. He’s also not much of a hero, and not exactly the greatest dad out there. This is very much a person that you can empathize with, which only increases the tension in the film. Overall, the film isn’t exactly scary, but it’s very unsettling. The hooded thugs screech in the most horrendous way, and their swift brutality will cause a few hearts to skip. It’s the very convincing performance of Barnard and the overwhelming sense of true fear that brings the audience to a place that leaves them squirming in their seats. You may not jump out of your seat, but you won’t be able to sit still in it either.

Under the marquee – Will

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