Sunday, March 31, 2013


Friday was Fascination with Fear's 5th Anniversary.  Instead of celebrating in fine fashion I was trying to sleep off a stomach bug I've had for over a week.  I've been trying all month to think of a truly mind-shattering way to commemorate the occasion, but I'm coming up a little flat. Perhaps my brain isn't in full function mode just yet.

But let's put it this way, guys. I'm so thankful for this blog. It has made my life wonderful in so many ways. What started out as simply a little project for myself - a way to put down all my thoughts about the genre I loved best - it has turned into one of the most important aspects of my life.

Certainly the best thing about FWF is the fact that it has introduced me to some of the best people I know, some of whom have become extremely close friends and confidants. Most of whom I consider my life better for having met. I love my horror pals from all necks of the woods (and across the world)!

The horror community is a mixed pot. There's a lot of competition for attention. Some fighting amongst bloggers. A lot of jonesing for positions of prestige or influence. A lot of ridiculous antics that come and go. But more often than not, it's just a mutual affection between those who care about the same singular thing.

I've been lucky with this blog. Besides meeting fantabulous (just made that up) people, I've gotten a lot of really amazing opportunities thrown my way - getting published in both Paracinema and Fangoria have to be sitting at the top of that list. 
I also need to mention that Fascination with Fear has been nominated for the first time for a Rondo Hatton Award - one of the most prestigious honors for someone in the horror community.  If you feel so inclined, you can still vote for FWF (up until April 7) for this distinguished award.
Like everyone always says, it's just an honor to be nominated.  And that's the truth.

But the little things matter, too. A kind comment by a regular reader. Earning a mention on a top movie site like Total Film. A shout out from a fellow blogger on Facebook or Twitter. Getting to guest post on some of my very favorite blogs like Kindertrauma and Day of the Woman, and being able to share ideas and posts with a whole slew of great bloggers over the years.

This blog has been such a big part of my life for the past five years that now I can't imagine not having it.

And now I share it with my blogging counterpart, Marie.  Last year around this time I did a little searching to find someone to help keep the blog updated because of some real-life horrors that were getting me down and preventing me from posting as often as I'd like.  Thankfully, Marie happened into my life and she has been the burst of freshness that FWF needed.  So I thank her SO much for helping me and most of all for being such a wonderful friend!

In closing, I just want to thank everyone for supporting Fascination with Fear over the years.  There's more to come, so stay tuned!  And don't forget, comments are a blogger's catnip, so don't be a stranger!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Fear Is Beneath Me: My Favorite Basements In Horror

Those who are regular readers of this blog (there are some out there, right?) know that I have a great love of lists. A penchant to categorize in every way imaginable. A need to sort, classify, and arrange. So it shouldn't be a surprise to find another list jumping out from the blog pages.

Basements to me, are the scariest damn places on earth.  Whereas some folks cringe to go up to their attic (and I'll admit that has to be the second scariest), I feel tension and anxiety when I'm forced to tread into what is really no more than a hole in the ground with some walls holding it up.  I'm not really afraid of my own basement (as I have a killer cat down there that protects me and makes sure no monsters are hiding there), but when I was a kid, my grandparent's basement scared the living hell out of me.  It was dark, had random light bulbs hanging down like the cellar in Psycho, a dreadful little bathroom stall tucked away in one corner, boasted the creepiest "root" cellar (yeah, my grandparents called it a root cellar instead of fruit cellar. Either way it's ominous.) in the lower 48 - with red walls like the goddamned Amityville Horror house, and last but not least, the room had an old table with dragon's heads for feet and I thought for sure someday they would come to life and attack me.  I read a lot of Stephen King as kid.

The basement in my parents house frightened the shit out of me too.  The furnace was a noisy monster all on its own, but there was a room off the one side that was a dirt-floor coal room (back when the house would have been heated by a coal furnace) and it looked like a good place for John Wayne Gacy to stash bodies. When it rained there would be water in one corner, and I could always imagine a body rising from the murky waters, hair plastered to their face, their eyes inhumanly blank and their mouths open in a silent scream. Yes, I really thought that every time I saw it. Still do. 

Furthermore, as a teen my friends and I used to go haunted house hunting and many times entered dilapidated old houses out in the woods through the basement.  Don't even think of telling me that wasn't the freakiest thing ever. A house with no electric - hence, no lights - isolated out in the woods, with a rickety set up cellar steps up into the house and a dirt floor more often than not.  Very Evil Dead-ish, if I do say so myself. Suffice it to say we always brought extra flashlights! (And plenty of alcohol, truth be told.)

So there have been some very shuddersome basements in my past. Thankfully, I don't think any of them were quite as sinister as most of the basements on this list.  And with the new Evil Dead film coming out in just a few weeks, I couldn't resist a little list of cellars that spooked me most.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I'm not sure there is a more expansive basement in horror than here at Jame Gumb's home. There are an unbeliveable amount of rooms, all filled with palpable creepiness.  A dead body in a bathtub (most likely the former owner of the house), a dry well in which Gumb holds his captives, his sewing room where he stitches together pieces of human skin...the list goes on.

The Cellar Door (2007)
Herman likes to drug and kidnap women and hold them in his basement until he sees fit to kill them.  But look at the really nice wooden cage he's built for them! If you have to be locked up in a basement, you might as well have a nice place to be caged up.

Spider Baby (1968)
When a crazy family keeps even crazier relatives in the basement to unleash on unsuspecting visitors, all hell breaks loose.  A chamber of horrors to be sure, this basement is host to apparent cannibals - all from the same demented family.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A cellar that seemed to promise a refuge from man-eating zombies turned out to host one of its own.  This basement is as close to a "normal" basement as I've found.  And it would have been Ben's saving grace - had he not ventured outside to see if the zombie apocalypse is over.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)
When you move in a house and the cellar door is locked and even nailed shut, that should be your first clue that it's not the best choice of living space.  One of the most gruesome basements in horror, this one boasts a living-dead Victorian doctor,  his ghastly surgical lab, and hoards of dead bodies used to rejuvenate said surgeon. One of the best atmospheric cellars I've seen.

House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Because the actual House is an asylum, it's friggin' huge, making the basement a vast underworld of creepy cells, medical labs, and evil chambers.  Great stuff!

A Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Your best bet, when picking a house to rent that happens to have crazy-low rent, is to ask if anything unusual happened in the, was it a former funeral home with a madcap owner practicing necromancy? And would you really choose the basement bedroom after you found out it was the embalming room?  Um....

Fritt Vilt (2006)
An abandoned ski lodge seems the perfect place for a group of snowboarders to hole up until they can get help for their injured friend.  Unfortunately it isn't as abandoned as they think.  Deep in the dark bowels of the hotel lives a man who was buried alive in the snow, decades ago. And he's pissed.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The ultimate 'basement ghoul', child murderer Freddy Krueger lived in the boiler room, stalking teens in their dreams and bringing them into his reality. That steamy boiler room was as scary as any dank cellar I've seen.

Don't be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
While this remake of a 1973 Made-for-TV movie was a real disappointment, it certainly had the most amazing basement I've ever seen, with the highest damn ceilings.  Too bad there were sinister little creatures hiding in the fireplace ready to attack.  Honestly one of the worst remakes I've seen in years. But damn, that awesome cellar!

Don't Look in the Cellar (2008)
 Possessing a ridiculous premise we've seen a thousand times before, a group of college kids spend the night in a supposedly haunted asylum on Halloween night.  Gah!  Worse yet, the killer's name here is Smiley. I'm not actually sure I finished this one but felt it should get a mention due to the obvious title.

Don't Look in the Basement (1973)
A.K.A "The Forgotten", this tale set in a supposed sanitarium isn't exactly the best film on this list, but who can resist another tale of an experimental mental hospital with a creepy lower level? Besides, like the film above, the title just begs to be included here.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Though this basement isn't exactly the creepiest one on the list, it's the one that holds the biggest impact for me. The first time I saw TBWP it scared the living shit out of me - the ending was just so unnerving. For days I'd close my eyes and see Mike standing in the corner.

The Amityville Horror (1979)
After the family dog just won't leave one of the basement walls alone, George Lutz finally breaks through the wall to find a secret room with the walls painted red.  Never a good sign.

American Horror Story (2011)
In the basement of the Murder House, a nutso surgeon performed illegal abortions and later tried to reanimate his dead child with animal parts. (...the hell???)  Also adding to the basement's malevolent allure is the fact that one of the main characters is found dead in the crawlspace.  Definitely high on the "basements of doom" list.

Signs (2002)
Hiding from malicious aliens hell bent on killing them, the Hess family holes up in the basement of the family home, only to have the young son in the family nearly die of an asthma attack.  A typical cellar, even it becomes menacing when the lights go out and they can hear the alien intruders closing in.

The Evil Dead (1981)
My favorite basement in horror that holds all kinds of ill will and bad karma. Not only does Ash & Co. find the evil Book of the Dead, but they eventually throw Cheryl down there when she becomes a "deadite". In this basement, the walls bleed and the light bulbs fill with blood. You just don't see that everyday.

Stir of Echoes (1999)
When Kevin Bacon undergoes a hypnotism that steers off course, he is compelled to dig up his entire backyard and basement until he finds a decomposed body.  Even worse, the house is a rental. Try getting that security deposit back.

The Innkeepers (2011)
The ghost of one Madeline O'Malley draws two employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn to investigate the basement of the inn to try and drum up some spirit activity.  They get more than they asked for in the end though, when Madeline herself decides to make her presence known.

Hell Night (1981)
Seemingly up from the floor itself comes one of the disfigured, insane Garth family members to give Linda Blair & Peter Barton a fright.  They soon find out that the floor has a trap door that opens up into a vast catacomb under the house, leading to dead bodies and more surprises from the Garth boys.

The Resurrected (1992)
This expansive basement holds a ghastly home laboratory used for attempts at raising the dead.  Full of tunnels that lead all around the area and empty into a nearby river, the catacombs even holds an old well, used as a pit for the rejects of a madman's atrocious experiments.

Psycho (1960)
The cellar to beat all cellars, the basement in the Bates house - the fruit cellar in particular - is the most famous in horror, or at least boasts the most recognizable scene.  When Norman busts into the cellar after Lila Crane discovers Mother in all her glory, it's an iconic and fantastic moment in horror.  Long live the Bates fruit cellar!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Do You Have To Watch That Right NOW? (Or: Living with a husband who doesn't share a love of horror)

A while ago, I wrote this article for another website, but seeing as how it is still relevant today and I still have the same feelings on the subject, I decided to add it to the roster of posts here at FWF, for completeness' sake, though it's not exactly the same. I've done some tweaking...

I'm sure there are a whole slew of other horror fans who are in the same boat as I am.  So what IS it like to live with someone whose life does not revolve around horror? 

I started dating my hubby nearly twenty-seven years ago – longer than a lot of you have even been alive.  So what was popular in horror back in 1986?  Well, the good ones were films like Aliens, The Fly, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Hitcher, even April Fool's Day. Nothing really earth-shattering though. But the bad? They were pretty damn bad. Like Sorority House Massacre, Poltergeist II, Spookies, Maximum Overdrive, and Vamp, among others.
So instead of introducing him to my favorite genre in the way I could have, we were stuck seeing things like Platoon, Top Gun, Cobra, and Heartbreak Ridge. (Not that those are bad films, far from it. Just not horror.)

So when he finally found out about the major degree of my horror obsession, it was too late.  I’d already reeled him in.  Not that he doesn’t appreciate horror.  He’s just very much an action kind of guy.  Even though I try to explain how much action is truly in horror, he just wasn’t born to be a true horror fan.

Basically, he would never say he dislikes horror, and will often go with me to see the latest genre film.  He sat through Daybreakers and The Wolfman with me, but didn’t go see Let Me In or Sinister.   In that respect, he chose poorly.

His issues are random.  He hates anything black & white.  Out goes Carnival of Souls, The Phantom of the Opera, and one of my most favorite films, Psycho.  (Though he’s had to sit through Psycho and deal with it too many times to count.  He actually has an appreciation for that one now!)  This is a guy who finally watched It’s A Wonderful Life for the first time a few years ago, having always avoided it due to its monochrome.  Yeah, I know…
But he still gives me one of those heavy sighs or a big ‘tsk! when I slide Night of the Living Dead into the DVD player. (Even though he's watched it countless times and has even taken me to the actual NOTLD cemetery.)

He hates foreign films, claiming he cannot tolerate subtitled movies.  Personally I think that is because he doesn’t want to read while watching the action on screen, or perhaps he has ADD and can’t do two things at once.  It could be either.

Another gripe with foreign films for him is the plot.  Some of that may be due to, in various films, the fact that they are subtitled or speaking in another language.  But let’s face it, neither Fulci or Argento make for great narratives and while they may  look pretty (particularly in Argento’s case), they don’t always make a whole lot of sense.  So scratch Suspiria, Deep Red, The Beyond, and House by the Cemetery.
Matter of fact the first time he came home and I was watching The Beyond, I do believe he was so appalled at the poor quality of the film as well as the completely pointless plot that he just turned and walked out without saying a word.
He has in fact, watched Tenebrae though, and states it’s a “mostly tolerable” film (!)

So, moving on from  Italian horror, we attack the French.  Not literally, but that might be nice, right?  Anyway.  The hubby can get down with the French.  Mostly. Well, not really…
But while watching these films, he doesn’t really want to have to pay attention to the questionable plots, he’d rather just watch the violence.  As in High Tension.  Or Frontier(s).  But when he watched Irreversible he couldn’t stand the fact that it started from the end and worked towards the beginning.  He just despises that technique and is verbal about telling me so.

As for other foreign films, he sees no point in Asian films, as most of the so-called J-Horror has been remade as American films, which he will always prefer.  (Yeah, he’s one of those types.)  Didn’t even want to think about watching [.Rec] - he’d already seen Quarantine.  Yikes.  He didn’t mind the Norwegian slasher film Cold Prey too much, which is indeed a shocker.  But suffice it to say, if I’m putting on something with subtitles, he’s outta here.
For this reason, he has yet to see the fabulous Let the Right One In.  (But he's seen and enjoyed Let Me In on DVD. He just doesn't understand that it comes from a superior foreign edition.)

Gore.  Yeah, he likes it well enough.  But I like it more.  I think it has to again do with the sub-par plot lines of many of the most gruesome flicks.  He did like Hostel.  But what wasn’t to like?  Naked girls and lots of blood.  Ditto that with Hostel II.   So I guess you could say he’s a fan of Eli Roth, if pressed.
But something like Dead Alive or even Martyrs?  Nah.  Martyrs is a double whammy cause you’re adding in the foreign aspect.

Classic horror?  I’m sorry (and ashamed, for him) to announce he just doesn’t get it.  At all.  No doubt he’s seen most of the Universal pictures, I have most.   But again, when you combine the black and whiteness with the quality that was available back in the 30’s and 40’s, and he is one disapproving dude.  He does NOT want to watch Browning’s Dracula ever again.  Give him Bram Stoker’s Dracula, sure.  But not something from 1931!!
I have a special place in my heart for those films, but I watch them alone.

Same goes for Hammer horror.  He saw most of them back when he was a kid but laughs, no – cackles, hysterically at them now. I guess he just thinks they are pretty hokey.  And they are.  But again, they’re awesome, right?
And can we just forget Godzilla and everything associated with it?  I own the original Gojira, and when I watched it once when he was home, he sang the theme music out loud for three days in a mocking tone.

He's not completely irredeemable. He does like (maybe even love) a good ghost story.  He is a big fan of The Changeling (thank God), loves The Shining, enjoys Ghost Story and The Woman in Black (either version), was shocked by The Sixth Sense’s ending (like everyone else), and tolerates Haunted due to Kate Beckinsale’s nudity. Of course.

I’d have to say his favorite horror films are a lot like the films anyone else without an obsession or great knowledge of horror would be.  Halloween, The Exorcist, and Jaws. In other words, nothing off the wall or eccentric.
He does, however, have a great love of all things Jamie Lee Curtis – so movies like The Fog and Prom Night are always welcome on our flat screen.

We do agree on a few things.  The never-ending remakes are getting out of hand, 3D has worn out its welcome, hand-held camera flicks are nauseating, and most CGI is an overrated, obnoxious mess.  Oh! And we both love Kurt Russell.

All of that being said, how do I live with someone who isn’t as into horror as I am?  I mean, I most often live and breathe horror.  I spend hours on my laptop writing about it when I’m not watching it.  It can be really difficult for me to deal with the fact that even though I have an entire library of horror to choose from at any given moment, I may not be able to watch what I want when I want.   I can kind of understand, as if it were up to me, I’d watch nothing but horror.  And then where would I be?  Without great flicks like When Harry Met Sally, Rocky, Gladiator, Braveheart, Grease, Forrest Gump, The Breakfast Club, Sideways,  and The Godfather films– all of which both of us love.

So we have to have some conditions.
*I cannot rent exclusively horror from NETFLIX.  If he wants to see the latest Expendables or Transporter movie, what can I say?
*I don’t generally watch two horror movies back to back, unless he's asleep, isn’t home, or it’s October – all bets are off in the tenth month and he knows it.
*I don’t ramble on about horror to him 24/7, although I most certainly could.
*I try to appreciate things like Bruce Lee marathons, movies about gladiators, and dumb-ass inane comedies. Though I draw the line at anything with Chris Farley in it.  Just no.
* I have to forgo horror some nights to let him watch American Pickers, Pawn Stars, or any random VH1 show about the greatest hits of the 70's.
*And I promise not to spend all my time online, though sometimes that seems difficult.

He’s actually more than tolerant with my obsession.  He reads my blog and tells me mine is better than anyone else’s (of course he’s not only required to say that but to be honest he doesn’t read anyone’s but mine).  He understands my sincere and undying devotion of all things Norman Bates, and appreciates Jaws (almost) as much as I do.  He even helps me decorate for Halloween, and always is the official carver of the seasonal Jack-o-lantern.

He’s forgiving of my fixation with horror.  He gets me, and for that I’m thankful.  He sits through (and falls asleep through) a whole big heaping pile of horror.   Even enjoys some of it.
Often he knows I’m itching to re-watch Argento’s Opera and so he’ll retreat to the den to peruse eBay for a couple hours.  God, he’s tolerant.

So what I guess I’m saying is that I’m lucky.  I’ve got a guy who is able to deal with me watching all the horror I can get my hands on.  He doesn’t make me turn it off, he accepts that I cannot stop adding to my ridiculously large DVD collection.  He even endures listening to the over-abundance of horror movie scores I’ve accumulated. And he’s proud of my writing – not only for my blog, but all the other places I turn up.

But if I'm being honest, what I’d really love to be saying is that my hubby loves  to sit down with a glass of the red stuff and have a marathon of Evil Dead,  Zombi 2,  Friday the 13th, Profondo Rosso, and the 1977 version of Piranha, you know?  
But hey, marriage isn’t perfect  – I’ll take what I can get :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Girls Against Boys (2012): And How Was YOUR Weekend?

Just because a girl blows away a guy's genitals with a gun doesn't make her the world's best feminist. Likewise, just because a director wants to make a film like Tarantino doesn't mean it's going to be even remotely close. 

Director Austin Chick's Girls Against Boys (quite possibly a major contender in the running for "Stupidest Title of 2013") wants to be edgy and self-aware but it never quite gets there, instead forcing us to endure long stretches of film with no dialogue and never-ending reflection from the lead character. It does have its moments, but for the most part it simply falls flat.

Ms.45 it ain't. Heck, it isn't even I Spit On Your Grave.  What it is though, is a somewhat different approach to revenge films, and certainly not what I expected.

Shae (Danielle Panabaker, well known to horror audiences for her work in several genre films) is having a hell of a day.  After bragging to a friend about her plans to spend the weekend in the Hamptons with her (much older, married) boyfriend, her world falls apart when he shows up at her apartment to break up with her.  Turns out he has not only a wife but a young daughter (that dirty rat!) and he has re-committed to them and can't see Shae anymore.  Brokenhearted, Shae ends up crying at a bar, only to be discovered by Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), a sexy bartender with an agenda (and a samurai sword, it turns out!)

Lu suggests that she and Shae take the town by storm, which basically means getting plastered enough to stumble out of a club with three horny guys. The girls follow them to their apartment (Really? Do girls still do this?) and while Lu is entertaining one of the guys, Shae - after being hit on multiple times - decides to go home.  One of the guys sees that she gets home safely and then proceeds to rape her in the hallway outside her apartment when she rebuffs his advances.

Instead of calling 911, Shae attempts to call her mother (who is a business woman too busy to talk to her) and then a friend, but with no one to confess her troubles to, she shows up at her married ex's home. He quickly dashes out of his brownstone so his family doesn't see Shae, but sensing she is still brooding over him, he takes her home and comes on way too strong, nearly making Shae a victim of another assault. 

So who does Shae turn to?  Well, Lu of course.  What we have pretty much figured out at this point is that Lu is somewhat unstable.  Maybe a LOT unstable.  Lu does take Shae to the police station to report the rape, but when a testosterone-heavy officer brushes Shae off by saying "you look alright to me", things take a major turn off the normal highway and fall straight into I Spit On Your Grave territory. 

The girls go off on a rampage, a killing spree in which they pretty much take out anyone that has done them wrong, and a few others simply because Lu enjoys it so much.  They hunt down Shae's rapist, tie him down, and cut off his legs. The oversexed policeman gets the gun to the crotch.  The ex-lover is shot in the woods, leaving the girls with a lovely Range Rover to tool around in.  (On a side-note, Shae's dead ex must have been a major fan of Donovan, as apparently his greatest hits blare from the CD player in the stolen Range Rover.  Sunshine Superman is a happy sing-a-long when the girls are contemplating a bit 'o murder and using a gun as a microphone, and Hurdy Gurdy Man sets a melancholy mood as the girls reflect on their deeds while driving down the highway with the night lights passing them by.)

No, I'm not giving too much away.  You can tell by the front of the alternate DVD cover and the first ten minutes of the film that they aren't holding anything back.  This film has revenge written all over it in plain view. 

What gives the film a bit of a bright spot is the weirdness that starts after Shae seemingly begins to move on from Lu.  Even after they have burned a weekend track of blood and guts through the area (with no one even remotely the wiser and crime-scene cleaners obviously on payroll), Shae is able to put aside the murders and go back to class, soon engaging in conversation with a nerdy yet charming guy. They spend an afternoon together at a carnival and seem to be having a great time. She genuinely likes the guy, you can tell.  It's probably more frightening knowing that Shae is able to put aside any guilt for the crimes and move on than it is knowing that Lu is out there looking for her next victim, just because she can.

When Shae comes home to her apartment after her date, Lu is waiting for her. 

I have to state the obvious.  This is not my first revenge-flick rodeo.  There really isn't a whole lot of mind-blowing fresh content here.  In fact, I think I may have seen this movie before - in dozens of other 'girls out for vengeance' flicks.  The director attempts to keep it contemporary by adding in the scenes of slow contemplation, where we see Shae stare off into space for countless minutes, but to be honest it just put me off.  Wasting all that time having Shae being pensive and aloof managed to make an under-90 minute film seem about three hours long. 

And the title! That ridiculous title! While it may suggest a real show-down between the sexes, it's nothing of the sort. It's women calling men pigs then shoving a gun in their junk.  That's nothing shocking or mind-altering. We've already seen this film, it just doesn't realize it.  The redundant tag line: "Bad girls don't cry. They get even." is so trite it pained me to write it just now.

I'm not sure what I can say to actually recommend Girls Against Boys.  The performances (in particular LaLiberte) were decent enough, and it certainly tries hard to make a social commentary regarding women and how men totally fuck them up and over on a regular basis, but the violence it displayed was nothing ground-breaking. Suffice it to say the film does have a certain feel to it, like it wanted to be more - to have more depth.  But in the end, it just ended up kind of 'meh' for me.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Citadel (2012): Face Your Fears

Citadel, the first film from Irish director Ciarán Foy, is more a thriller - at least until the last third of the film. But that fact doesn't make it any less frightening. The visceral fear that it can trigger left an impression on me, as did the fine lead performance by Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard.

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.

As they are leaving the dour building, Tommy goes on ahead to take the last of the luggage down to ground level.  He steps into the elevator and just as the door closes he sees his very pregnant wife get attacked by a small gang of youths in hoodies.  He's unable to get the elevator door open (crappy building all around) and when he finally is able to reach Joanne, she's been beaten up severely and has a hypodermic needle sticking out of her belly.  Things only go downhill from there, as Joanne ends up in a coma caused by infection. The doctors however, are able to save the baby, Elsa.

Nine months go by and we see what kind of condition this grave situation has put Tommy in.  He's developed a relentless case of agoraphobia from the trauma, and has an unbearable fear of stepping outside his door (which coincidentally ends up being the exact same housing project, as he is unable to leave).  It has literally ruined him, and if I do say so, I have never seen anyone portray this type of serious phobia in such a believable manner. Barnard's acting is simply top-notch here. It made me as nervous and fearful as he was. His sheer terror at attempting to open his front door was entirely palpable. 

Tommy does manage to make it to the hospital to see Joanne apparently, and is there with her when the doctors take her off life support those nine months later.  I am usually not very emotional at horror, probably because there aren't too many films that evoke strong feelings of sadness from me - but to see Tommy's extreme grief as he watches his wife's life slip away definitely caused me to shed a tear or two.  To see him there with his little one as her mother took her last breath... aw, it was heartbreaking.

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.

Citadel is a certainly a depressing social commentary about the face of welfare today and how far we've digressed.  While Tommy and Joanne sought to get out from under the stigma of the down-and-out recipients of assistance, it's obvious that the housing projects support hundreds of lives every day but berate them into thinking they aren't good enough to get out and live prosperous lives, or at least lives unburdened by crime and fear. 
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.

*On a related side-note, after watching the movie's extras, I learned that director Ciarán Foy wrote this film with a real-life experience to lead him.  As a young man he was the victim of an unprovoked attack by a bunch of wicked teens with a hammer, causing him to suddenly suffer - as Tommy did in the film - from an extreme case of agoraphobia.  With this horrific incident in his past, it's no wonder Foy was able to put so much clarity and passion into the role of Tommy.  I look forward to what he serves up next, though I certainly hope he hasn't had any more horrific experiences like that to draw from.