I can’t stand director intros or post-screening Q+A sessions mainly because they fill my head with various excuses and ideas in relation to the screened film. Such the case with the Irish horror drama Citadel, which filmmaker Ciarán Foy explained was a reflection of his own bout with agoraphobia. Having not known this I wonder if I would have loved it half as much…
In Citadel Aneurin Barnard plays Tommy, an agoraphobic that is forced to watch (from inside a broken elevator) his pregnant wife as she’s attacked by a swarm of punk kids. She ends up in a coma forcing Tommy to raise his newborn on his own, an extremely difficult challenge considering he’s terrified of leaving his own apartment. Trapped in his own filth, the apartment complex is being overrun by these young kids who continually attempt to break into his place. He soon learns, with the help of the local priest (who puts on his best Brian Cox performance), that the towers are overrun with blind, infected feral children who can “sense fear.”
As alluded to in the opening paragraph, Citadel is nothing more than an allegory for the director’s own agoraphobia – a therapeutic exercise where he confronts his own personal demons. Knowing this, I was completely engaged in watching how he fleshed out the story, and to see what it would take for Tommy to confront his fears. The deep-seeded idea behind the film, as dark as it is, is quite beautiful. Citadel is a sob story that makes you feel for both the character and director. The surface is a completely different story…
Citadel is an incredibly well-shot, terrifying and freakish horror drama that’s loaded with violence, scares and intensity that only David Cronenberg’s The Brood could deliver. The bleak atmosphere oozes discomfort with Barnard’s performance only adding even more of a punch. While the priest, played by James Cosmo, was an obvious device to move the story without adding too much exposition, his character added an entire new dimension to the plot. His character spews gem after gem, such as when Tommy asks what the children “are”, “They’re demons, Tommy,” he says with a straight face before adding, “You’d believe anything I tell you right now…” His honest intensity towards Tommy reflects the audience and their own issues towards the situation; you just want to yell at him to get over it already, he’s got a kid to protect…
The major problem with Citadel is that Foy made this movie for Foy, not horror fans, not anyone else. It was a cathartic release for him that resulted in a well-made and entertaining feature that structurally could have been a bit more sound. In addition, I highly recommend that whomever acquires the film for distribution remove or re-edit the final shot that displays some CGI effects that are on par with Birdemic (wish I were joking). And while Citadel has its share of issues, ultimately it’s a pretty entertaining genre outing that has enough kicks for the hardcore audience, and enough jolts for those looking for something a bit more tame.
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