The first are well-armed, well-trained, and unstoppable. Demons? Hollow points filled with holy water. Zombies? Cannon fodder. Mighty Cthulhu? Airstrike. These characters may break a sweat, and they may bleed, but in the end, they’ll light a cigar, utter a macho pun, and strut on to the sequel.
The second are real. They are regular people with no special training, no weapons beyond what they can find, and they can very easily be killed in the most brutal and painful ways. Assuming they survive the horrors they are doomed to face, they will most likely suffer the side effects of extreme psychological trauma. Their battle will not just be physical (and even that will be bone-shatteringly, eyeball-gougingly hard to watch), but mental as well. These are not people used to the horrors of every day life, much less those of a monstrous, a supernatural, or even a human origin. When they leave this metaphorical arena of blood, they will be forever changed. They won’t have any military awards ceremony to go back to, and they will not be eager to share their stories. They will have their experiences permanently seared into their minds, with no hope of ever overcoming what they had to do to survive. If you can even call it survival.
Clearly, one of these character types is far more impressive and intriguing than the other.
This is one of the reasons I have always loved Predator. The first third or so of the movie presents these soldiers as emotionally calm, badass warrior types. Even when they’re outnumbered, and on the enemy turf, they get the job done without any trouble. This makes it all the more interesting when one single alien is able to dispatch them with such ease, like a cat playing with a wounded mouse. In the end, Schwarzenegger must cast aside his modern weapons and adopt a more primal fighting tactic. This makes the final encounter more personal, and the outcome not so certain.
So why did I just spend several paragraphs describing my preferred horror film character? Because Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard), the protagonist of the upcoming film Citadel, seems to be that character taken to the edge and then cast over the side.
The film, directed by Ciaran Foy, opened at South by Southwest, and has been picked up by Cinedigm/Flatiron films for an October 26th release. It tells the story of a family who are viciously assaulted by a violent gang of hooded punks. After the attack, Tommy is forced to raise his infant daughter by himself. He falls into a deep pit of agoraphobia, fueled by his imaginary fears, and his intense therapy does not seem to be helping him at all. Eventually, he has no choice but to face his fears, ready or not. The hoods make their presence known in his life again, and Tommy enlists the help of a priest, who believes this gang may have supernatural origins. Tommy must confront the reality beyond his imagination, the monsters that have brought him to his mentally crippled state, if he hopes to save his daughter. He must venture into the dark catacombs of an abandoned tower known as the citadel.
I now ask all movie studio marketing managers to take note. This is how you construct a horror movie trailer. There is no awful voice over, very few story details are given away, and the visuals, sound, and dialogue give the viewer the sense of being alone in the dark, and yet surrounded by an unseen, malevolent force that only wants to cause pain and suffering, and very likely delights in the acts. Through this trailer, we are given just the vaguest image of what is inside Tommy’s mind. We feel his paranoia looming over our shoulders, we feel his desperation dragging him down, and we feel his fear suffocating him in a choking darkness. This trailer will make you want to turn on the light and hide inside a locked room. No such luck. You’re trapped. Just like Tommy. Just like the rest of us. The only difference is whether or not you will have the spine to face what is waiting for you, and the will to overcome it.
A father with a chronic fear condition, attempting to save his child by venturing into the urban darkness to face a vicious, supernatural gang. If he was, say, a well-trained soldier, the movie would be over too quickly, and extremely boring. Check out the teaser below to get a sense of what I’m talking about. On October 26th, I get the feeling we can look forward to sharing in Tommy Cowley’s struggle to save his daughter, but I find it very likely that even if we survive, there is no guarantee that we will leave the theater mentally sound. After all, we’re only human.
Source: Shock Till You Drop