Citadel – 7
Director – Ciaran Foy
Cast – Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson, Amy Shiels
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After watching and enjoying Grabbers, I decided to look for more good Irish horror films, and that is when I came across Citadel. The polar opposite of what Grabbers offers, Citadel is a dark and somber experience that will require some patience from the viewer, then reward them for their good behavior with great horror in the end. Going into this piece I really did not expect it to be very scary, but instead more of the post-apocalyptic survival type of film, but judging by the numerous chills I received I was dead wrong. By the time the end credits rolled I had experienced a film that I should not have underestimated.
After his wife was brutally attacked by a gang of sick feral children, young father Tommy Cowley fights chronic agoraphobia in his struggle to provide a better life for his infant daughter. Forced to live in the dilapidated suburb of Edenstown, Tommy is continuously terrorized by the gang that attacked his wife, this time determined on taking his baby daughter from him. With conflicting help from a good-hearted nurse and a vigilante priest, Tommy is forced to learn the nightmarish truth behind the hooded children when they succeed in taking his daughter from him. Determined to retrieve his daughter at all costs, Tommy discovers that to be free of his fears he must face the demons that have caused him so much grief, entering the one place he fears the most – the abandoned tower block known as the Citadel.
The story begins quickly, giving us a full frontal viewing of what happened to Tommy’s innocent and pregnant wife as a result of an unfortunate run-in with the feral children living in the Citadel. I do not want to give too much away regarding that (although it’s hard not to), but let’s just say that things do not end well for her and Tommy is stuck raising his newborn child alone. The attack leaves him extremely fearful of his surroundings – a weak man also on the verge of losing custody of his child due to his condition. His agoraphobia worsens as he is bombarded by the creepy kids who harass and hiss at him within his home, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and take his child…which they eventually do. This event sparks a journey not just to the darkest hell hole in the city, but a journey within the psyche of the broken down Tommy who must now “man up” if he wishes to ever see his daughter again. The journey is not easy, and writer Ciaran Foy includes much conflict for Tommy to face, but he does so with the help of a few acquaintances who also have a beef with what resides in the Citadel. The helpful nurse was a positive character, but the priest and the young blind boy he cares for, Danny, aided the story where it mattered most: they got Tommy face to face with the horrors within the Citadel.
Speaking of the horrors within the Citadel, what is the big deal with the feral kids? Well, they are indeed children, but they are not the typical children we normally perceive kids to be. They live on their own in the run down Citadel, and contracted some sort of cancer-esque disease that caused them to suffer blindness and facial abnormalities. They do not seem to eat human flesh, but they do kill humans at will. What I found really unique about them was that they can only “see” you if you show fear towards them, which is why it was so hard for Tommy to face them in his attempt to find his daughter – his life consists solely of fear.
Ciaran Foy also serves as the film’s director, superbly executing his own story and delivering the experience he wanted to give. It is obvious that the film’s intent is not only to scare the viewer, but to wrench our hearts at the situation Tommy has found himself in as a result of a senseless act of violence that he could do nothing to stop nor prevent. His atmosphere was incredible and set the tone for the gloomy story, and he got the most out of actor Aneurin Barnard in his excellent portrayal of Tommy. Each of the acting performances from the few actors involved were positive, but Barnard made a name for himself with what his character had to go through in this piece. I mentioned earlier that I underestimated the film’s horror, and I applaud Foy for doing a fantastic job at giving us worthwhile scares that had me jolting a few times. The look of the killer kids was incredible and their mannerisms made them extremely creepy, and it was his execution of the scare sequences that left me in awe at what I had just seen. In all honesty, had the film’s focus been to outrightly scare the viewer this could have been one of the scariest films of recent time, but Foy obviously did not set out to accomplish that…yet.
Overall, Citadel is a horror film I recommend to those of you with the patience to sit through a little drama until the good stuff kicks in. The story moves well and gives you enough engaging material to keep your attention, and this piece offering much more than the usual horror film should also aid in keeping you glued to the screen. When the horror does present itself it is expertly executed to leave you squirming in your seat, which is an indicator that this is a horror film experience you should not miss out on.