Ireland/UK 2012, 85m, Blinder/Sigma/Irish Film Board/Creative Scotland
DVD: Metrodome (UK) - Cert 15
When his wife is attacked by what appears to be a gang of youths and dies as a result, agorophobic Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) is convinced that these same youths are now out to get him and his newborn baby. When he seeks help from a most unorthodox priest (James Cosmo), it becomes apparent that this gang may not be entirely human...
When Citadel arrived in the post, I have to confess that I was somewhat dreading yet another hoodie-horror. This sub-genre has reared its ugly head in the UK over the last few years, pandering to the worst prejudices of some by generally portraying idealised law abiding citizens being stalked by somewhat interchangeable gangs of feral kids in decaying urban landscapes, and the resulting films tend to leave me feeling like I've been beaten around the head with a rolled-up copy of the Daily Mail for 90 minutes.
I'm pleased to report that Ciaran Foy's first feature film does something a bit different with this template, instead suggesting that these creatures (more than a little reminiscent of Cronenberg's The Brood) are something quite far removed from humanity. The difference here is an important one. Whilst most modern horrors in this setting rely on the audience's fears of basically being mugged/attacked/beaten on their way home, the fear element here is based on being attacked by something from another sub-species. If we're mugged, we know the motivation is probably money. If one of these creatures attacks you, there is no clear rhyme or reason. Which is scarier?
The premise could so easily fall flat and look silly, but Citadel is helped in no small way by a powerful and genuinely moving lead performance from Aneurin Barnard. His portrayal of Tommy's condition and his struggle to even venture out of his front door has a real ring of truth to it. Unfortunately, James Cosmo's turn as the renegade priest is a tad over the top at times, and dangerously close to Jack from TV's Father Ted in places. If this is intended in the script to be some kind of comedy relief, it is sadly misplaced.
Citadel is not a perfect film by any means. The explanation of why these creatures have ended up this way is somewhat convoluted and requires a very large pinch of salt to swallow, but it does try to avoid the pitfalls of demonising an entire segment of society and painting them with the same broad brushstrokes and, on the whole succeeds. If it does succumb to the occasional horror cliché, some creepy and disturbing set pieces redeem it, with a sequence set on a bus being particularly effective. On this evidence, Ciaran Foy will be worth keeping an eye on.
Original Theatrical Trailer: