Citadel (2012) – Ciaran Foy
The short that came before Citadel was a post-apocalyptic film titled Children Of The Dark which played out like a love letter to The Road. While the production values were definitely solid, it was a generic and forgettable experience complete with mutant-cannibals, greyed-out colour correction, and the unnecessary wearing of a gas mask.
Citadel begins with a pregnant woman being assaulted by a group of hoodie-wearing people while her husband Tommy (played with great empathy by Aneurin Barnard) is powerless to help. The incident leaves Tommy a deeply traumatized single father. The two people that enter his life are a gentle nurse Marie (played by the beautiful Wunmi Mosaku) who encourages Tommy to overcome his fears and a priest played by James Cosmo who suggests that Tommy’s fears are justified. Tommy’s fear only grows as he sees hooded people lurking about, and outside his home. I had concerns that Citadel might dive into the sort of misleading psychological horror of a film like Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland, with Tommy’s paranoia taking over his life. Much to my relief Citadel is not that sort of film, being completely grounded in its own reality.
Citadel really is as much a drama as it is a horror film. There was a certain point while watching citadel where I became so caught up in the drama that I forgot it was a horror film. But when the horror comes it comes with a big violent bang. The pacing of the film is slow but steadily accelerating, giving a strong sensation of dread. The hoddie-wearers are revealed to not be human at all, but strange mutant monsters that are mostly blind but sense fear and before too long kidnap Tommy’s baby girl for a nefarious purpose. The back story to the monsters is definitely B movie material but it is presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that it feels elevated. Tommy goes to the priest to find help to rescue his daughter. The priest reveals a personal connection to the monsters as well as a plan to kill them all. Part of what makes the monsters so terrifying is how empathetic Tommy is. We identify with him, so what scares him carries over, and this is here Citadel really stands out as a horror film.
Without giving too much away, the ending of Citadel is a very moving and cathartic experience. Watching Citadel is such a moving experience that I can imagine people who don’t consider themselves fans of the horror genre appreciating the film. Citadel is not only a good horror film but a good film period. Ciaron Foy’s direction is very strong and extremely promising considering Citadel is his first feature film. Citadel may very well prove to be the strongest film in the festival, and perhaps one of the strongest horror films of the year. Time will tell if it finds a large audience or dedicated following, but I would highly recommend it.