Every once in a while, a filmmaker can turn an intensely personal experience into something with near universal resonance. When he was 18 years old, Ciaran Foy was attacked by a group of young hoodlums who threatened him with a dirty syring before attacking him; he wasn’t even robbed–violence itself seemed to be the only motivation. The experience left Foy traumatized and suffering from agoraphobia for years after. Eventually, he was able to channel his emotions into creating a movie that would help him come to terms with this attack and, hopefully, overcome his fears. The result, his debut Citadel, is a film that tackles many complicated issues surrounding youth violence, as well as the innate fears that come with being a new parent. While evil/feral children have their own subgenre, Citadel may be the first in a new and somewhat controversial genre category: Hoodie Horror.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his very pregnant wife. The couple is attacked one day by a group of hooded young thugs, and after a shocking act of violence, Tommy is left to raise his newborn daughter alone. So shaken by the events that he’s developed extreme agoraphobia, Tommy alternates his days hiding out from imagined threats in his new flat and intense therapy sessions aimed at bringing him back to normalcy. When the same hooded gang seemingly intent on kidnapping his daughter begins terrorizing his life again, he’s torn between his paralyzing fear and protective parental instinct. With the help of a vigilante priest who has uncovered the genesis of this ruthless, potentially supernatural gang, Tommy must overcome his fears and venture into the heart of the abandoned tower block known as the Citadel to save his family.
First, I’d like to address John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter who trashed Citadel over perceived “overtones of class warfare” and poor timing due to the recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin: Are you on crack?!? Do you honestly believe that Foy created Citadel as a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting and/or that he was hopping to make some sort of financial gain off of this tragedy? If anyone is desecrating the memory of Trayvon Martin it’s you, Mr. DeFore, for making such a ludicrous assertion. The fact that Citadel was, coincidentally, released when the Trayvon Martin shooting was still a fresh wound on our shared psyche, could actually benefit discussions regarding the perceptions of youth and criminality. Because Trayvon Martin didn’t make hoodies threatening any more than Foy did; people have been scared of hooded figure since some 15th Century English guy wrapped a skeleton in one and named him The Grim Reaper–but this doesn’t mean that the garment is the source of the resulting anxieties. You also claim, Mr. DeFore, that Citadel contains overtones of class warfare, to which I reply: You’re damn right it does! Why you consider this a bad thing is beyond me. Whatever Foy’s personal opinions on the subject, class warfare is an important issue that deserves examination, and Citadel provides a rich subtext for such conversations.
Hoodies by themselves are hardly terrifying–it all depends on who’s wearing them. Youth gangs, on the other hand, are scary as hell. I’ve heard young teenagers described as “opportunistic psychopaths”, and this certainly seems valid; lacking complex reasoning abilities and impulse control, fueled by agressive hormones, some kids really do seem like monsters. Citadel takes this fear of teenage psychosis to disturbing new levels, imagining these kids as something less than human–something primitive or even devolved; they roam in packs like stray dogs, dragging clubbed feet, and communicating in animalistic utterances. It’s impossible to experience the dread these kids induce without examining the subtext: Where do these kids come from and why isn’t anyone looking for solutions to the violence? Where the fuck are the parents?
In Citadel, Tommy is dealing with much more than a fear of violence; he’s a first-time father who finds himself raising an infant daughter on his own (a terrifying scenario indeed). But just as the evil children run amuck without adult guidance, Tommy is also lacking in any kind of family support; there are no grandparents in the picture offering support. It’s as though everyone is an orphan. Were it not for the love of his late wife, Tommy could very well have ended up as a thug himself; if he were to abandon his daughter, her fate would undoubtedly be sealed as well. The children may be demonic, but they weren’t created in a vacuum, rather they are the result of a tragically broken system–one where apathy breeds violence.
The pacing and presentation in Citadel are both excellent. In spite of being a deeply nuanced film that spans almost 2 years, Foy kicks things off with a bang; the rest of the film delivers top-notch thrills with no significant downtime. The acting is amazing all around; while Barnard carries the film with his awesome portrayal of Tommy, James Cosmo is brilliant as the mentally unstable priest and young Jake Wilson is chilling as the partially-feral kid Danny. The FX are understated yet deeply impactful, employing a less-is-more strategy. Citadel creates a pervasive sense of dread that carries from the opening scene until the final credits roll. An Act 3 reveal adds elements of virus Horror reminiscent of the [REC] franchise; the fim deftly dances on the border of the Supernatural without every crossing fully over. A scene in the building’s basement is especially unnerving.
Citadel is chilling to the core, but lite on blood and gore. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Horror, this one is worth watching for the brilliant acting and compelling subtext. Aficionados, on the other hand, definitely need to add this one to their collections.
4 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Ciaran Foy|
|Produced by||Katie Holly
|Written by||Ciaran Foy|
|Editing by||Tony Kearns
|Running time||84 minutes|