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rochefort [Film Festival 03.21.12] Ireland (Republic of) horror



Year: 2011
Directors: Ciaran Foy
Writers: Ciaran Foy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochfort
Rating: 6 out of 10

"Citadel" is one of those films that works not because it has a groundbreaking setup or movie monster (it doesn't), but rather because it fully explores its main character's conflict, in this case Tommy's agoraphobia.

Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) is a young, single father who has suffered from crippling agoraphobia ever since a group of strange, grotesque children attacked his wife in the hallway of their run-down Edenstown flat and made him a widower. A year after, and Tommy is doing what he can to overcome his affliction and provide for his baby, but the gang of feral kids returns and appear to want his child. "Citadel", Ciaran Foy's directorial debut film, won the Midnighter Audience Award at this year's South By Southwest, and it's an intriguing horror thriller that fuses fairly conventional horror elements with a harrowing (and largely autobiographical) depiction of the effects of agoraphobia.

Tommy has only barely begun to make therapeutic headway when the gang of hoodie-clad creatures re-enter his life, and pretty much the only friend he has is nurse Marie (Wunmi Mosaku), who thinks his stories about the flaky-skinned hooligans are probably just shock-induced dementia. The Priest (James Cosmo) who presides over his late wife's funeral believes otherwise, and the foul-mouthed man of the cloth berates Tommy for not taking his daughter and just leaving the city. But Tommy's too poor and too scared to leave, so when his daughter is eventually kidnapped he seeks help from the Priest to get his baby back and wipe out the juvie horde. There's one really big problem, however: according to the Priest, whose blind son is apparently some kind of medium, the hoodie creatures can see fear, and Tommy is nothing if not constantly terrified.

"Citadel" is one of those films that works not because it has a groundbreaking setup or movie monster (it doesn't), but rather because it fully explores its main character's conflict, in this case Tommy's agoraphobia. Director Foy experienced an event similar to the one that puts his main character into such a dire position, and channels into Tommy his firsthand understanding of how paranoia and anxiety can manifest physically and transform a person into a perpetual victim. The movie succeeds best when Foy and his proxy Barnard focus on just how desperate and wounded Tommy really is, and Barnard does excellent work, earning a level of audience empathy for Tommy that carries the film through some of its weaker spots. But those weak spots do take their toll. The "second sight" subplot with the Priest and his son is alternately convenient and hackneyed and, besides helping to establish a modicum of tension, doesn't really make much difference in Tommy's arc. It's a case of too much story stuff, really, since we're gonna root for him to overcome his fear and find his daughter anyway. And while the idea of feral children is pretty much guaranteed nightmare fuel, Foy shows way too much of them, so much that we start noticing the amateurish body language in the young monster cast, as well as the fact that all of these homeless creatures seem to shop at the same hoodie store.

But despite the missteps, I came away from "Citadel" with the feeling that it accomplishes quite a lot of what it sets out to do. I tend to be a fan of movies like "Candyman" or "Outcast" that turn their attention to the idea of the low-income housing project as a modern horror setting, these places that breed monsters in the very shadows of the shiny skyscrapers that have all but forgotten them. As an exploration of the class struggle so often present in this subgenre, "Citadel" doesn't spend much energy on the big picture. But as a glimpse of how one person can be so lost to the system that he's in constant danger of being lunch for its cast-off children, it has some undeniably harrowing moments.




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