Tommy (Barnard) and Joanne (Amy Shiels) Cowley are a young couple about to become parents. They are leaving their run-down apartment in a very seedy and dilapidated area of housing projects in Ireland. The grimy, depressing building wreaks pestilence and corruption, and the duo are over the moon about putting that part of their life behind them and moving on to a better future.
Unfortunately, things don't really get better for Tommy. As he tries to put his life back together, he is again taunted and tormented by the hood-wearing children. They show up at his door, break in and terrorize him - leaving him a mental wreck. He has a friend Marie (Wunmi Mosaku), who is a nurse at the hospice where Joanne was kept. She tries to reason with him, telling him the youths aren't the same ones involved in the attack on Joanne, and these kids are just acting out, trying to get attention, and that they all deserve a chance at a better life. On the other hand, a short-tempered priest (James Cosmo) just causes more anxiety and fear for Tommy when he tells him the children will be back - to get his daughter. The priest tries to convince Tommy that the terrorizing kids are not children at all, but a type of demon hell-bent on stealing children and raising more like themselves. He claims the children can "sense and see your fear" and thrive on it. When baby Elsa is taken right from Tommy's arms from the crazy delinquents, we have to hope Tommy has enough mental constitution to fight for and take back what is his and come out the better for it.
Nothing to me is as scary as thinking about a young family living in a housing project where the crime rate is through the roof, people are afraid to open their doors, and their neighbors are drug dealers or murderers. Of course I'm sure not all the projects are this way, but the stereotypical look is probably not too far off the mark in most cases.
Tommy's struggle with his crippling phobia was again, completely realized and brought to life by Barnard. I can't praise his proficient work here enough. The film takes a nice slice of time developing Tommy's character and it forces us to feel true sadness and despair, along with utter paranoia, right along with him.
As the movie progresses it does morph into more of a horror film, with dark, shadowy corridors and creepy children beating people senseless, but it never strays far from the white-knuckled fear lodged deep in Tommy's psyche, causing us an inherent need to help him and hope everything works out alright. I don't usually get so involved with a character as I did with Tommy, so in my book that is reason to celebrate and pronounce Citadel a must-see.