Exclusive Interview: Writer/Director Ciarán Foy Talks Citadel and More
This week writer/director Ciarán Foy's highly impressive feature film debut Citadel (review here) is set to hit limited theaters nationwide courtesy of Cinedigm Entertainment, and to get you guys ready, we recently caught up with the filmmaker to hear more about the project.
A film that debuted rather impressively at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival this past March (taking home the Midnighter Audience Award), Citadel has garnered a multitude of accolades this year during its impressive festival run, and now that the flick is finally hitting the big screen in theaters, we heard from Foy about how his own real-life trauma influenced the film's hero, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard), as well as more on his approach to creating palpable atmosphere and what's coming up next for him.
Check out our exclusive interview with up-and-coming director Foy below, and make sure to check out Citadel in theaters November 9th.
Dread Central: Because Citadel is based on your own personal experiences, is a lot of what we see in Tommy reflective of what you went through after your own attack then? And I thought Aneurin's performance as Tommy was really fantastic.
Ciarán Foy: Yeah, when you're writing from such a personal perspective like I did on this movie, it's inevitable that aspects of your own life or experiences will make it in there. Especially because my attack was what inspired this story. But when Aneurin came on board, he really made this character his own- there are aspects I still recognize as parts of myself, but Tommy is all Aneurin; he even made some changes to the character from how I had written him because he felt like once he really began to know his character, he felt like Tommy would have made some different choices.
To me that was really interesting because it was like seeing a 3D version of myself in this in some ways, but as a whole Tommy became something completely else, and that's due to Aneurin's brilliant performance. He did things with the character I never could have expected, and it was wonderful.
Dread Central: The atmosphere in Citadel was pretty remarkable, and it's easy to see now why you've been cleaning up at the festivals this year (laughs); can you discuss where you found some influences for the look and feel of the project?
Ciarán Foy: Yeah, thanks, we've been incredibly lucky (laughs); the atmosphere in this is a bit two-fold to me. I definitely wanted Citadel to feel like many of my own favorite horror movies- the classics from the 70's as well as more recent movies like Jacob's Ladder. There's something almost tangible to that kind of atmosphere- the dread and the terror consumes you while you're watching those kinds of movies, and that's the feeling I wanted to evoke in audiences with Citadel.
I'm not a fan of the more nihilistic horror movies, the kind where you feel like you need a shower afterwards. I'm also not a huge fan of forced jump scares or cheap frights so creating a palpable atmosphere was one of my biggest concerns here from start to finish.
Oh, and relatability was another of my primary concerns on Citadel; I wanted to make sure that I wrote characters that audiences would care about. I hate going to a movie where I really have no interest in the characters once the movie is over- I always feel like I enjoy a movie more when I can have some kind of emotional connection to either the story or the characters, and that’s what I hope I've done on Citadel. The atmosphere and the relatability of this story were the key notes for me to hit in order to make an engaging horror movie.
Dread Central: I thought the feral kids were exceptionally creepy as well in this; can you talk about what inspired the look and the backstory of these creatures?
Ciarán Foy: Fundamentally, they were the same kids who attacked me- hoodies. I never saw the faces of my attackers so it was a conscientious choice on my part that you don't really see the faces of the hoodies in the movie- or at least not until late in the third act. And even then I wanted to make sure what you saw was not normal at all. These weren't 'regular' kids that Tommy was up against.
We also had to give them a backstory that felt organic to the real world but didn't try to over-explain anything either. As a movie fan I think sometimes a movie can get ruined when you over-explain things. It kills the fear, and so I came up with the mold-based mythology for the kids that felt plausible but also incredibly creepy; the mold not only turned them into these feral 'things' but also has begun to become part of their own chemistry as well- we even gave the creatures a 'moldy' look in their design, like the mold was starting to grow off of them the more they would consume it. I thought their look and their story came out rather well, too.
Dread Central: Well, now that Citadel is getting a theatrical release, what's on the horizon for you? Are you planning on continuing to work in the genre world?
Ciarán Foy: Oh, definitely, I love telling these kind of stories so the genre world is where I'd like to stay for a while- either doing horror or sci-fi. And I am working on a couple of things right now that are in the sci-fi realm, but horror is certainly something I'd like to return to after that. I really want to find a story that speaks to me first before I decide my next feature. But right now I'm just currently doing a rewrite on a sci-fi project that I was hired for, and other than that I've just been reading a lot of scripts in the UK and in the US as well.
Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his highly pregnant wife. The couple is attacked one day by a group of hooded young thugs, and after a shocking act of violence, Tommy is left to raise his newborn daughter alone.
So shaken by the events that he’s developed extreme agoraphobia, Tommy alternates days hiding out indoors in his new flat from imagined threats and intense therapy sessions aimed at bringing him back to normalcy.
When the same hooded gang, seemingly intent on kidnapping his daughter, begins terrorizing his life again, he’s torn between his paralyzing fear and protective parental instinct. With the help of a vigilante priest who has uncovered the genesis of this ruthless, potentially supernatural gang, Tommy must overcome his fears and venture into the heart of the abandoned tower block known as the CITADEL to save his family.
Winner of the Midnighter Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, CITADEL brings a fresh take to classic horror by raising the question: How can you protect your family from evil when you’re afraid of everything?
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