15th Apr2013

‘Citadel’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson, Amy Shiels | Written and Directed by Ciaran Foy

citadel-movie-still

Horror has always had its finger of the pulse of the nation, be it the nuclear terror of the 50s which led to films such as The Blob or the racial tensions in 60s America that permeated George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The horror genre has always somehow managed to manifest our biggest cultural fears in its tales of ghouls, ghosts and serial killers. Borne out of the generational gap between old and young and the fears arising from the growth a benefit-scrounging underclass, a stereotype perpetuated by the mainstream media seemingly on a daily basis, the latest genre trend is the “hoodie horror”. Having already spawned films such as Harry Brown, Eden Lake and Johannes Roberts’ superb F, the latest entry in this growing sub-genre is Citadel. Part the aforementioned F and part recent Brit-flick Tower Block, the film was apparently inspired by a real-life attack on the films writer/director Ciaran Foy as a teenager.

Set on a condemned Glasgow council estate, Citadel tells the story of Tommy Cowley (Barnard) who, following a brutal attack on his wife by a gang of hoodies in halls of the tower block in which they live, is left literally holding the baby, stuck in a dilapidated terrace with a severe case of agoraphobia waiting on news of any changes in his wife’s comatose state. Permanently in fear of the outside world, Tommy finds himself terrorised by the same gang of feral hoodies who now seem intent on taking his baby daughter from him as they did his wife. With the help of his wife’s understanding nurse and a vigilante priest, Tommy sets out to learn the nightmarish truth surrounding these hooded children and discovers that to be free of his fears, he must finally face the demons of his past and enter the one place that he fears the most – the tower block.

No doubt a source of catharsis for director Ciaran Foy, Citadel is a stunning feature debut that is both at once a metaphor for societal ills and a cracking horror tale in its own right. It’s obvious that Foy’s experience has had a huge impact on the film – the run-down empty council estates, the dark alleyways, unlit halls and the bleak Scottish weather combining from the get-go to give the movie an unsettling and eerie atmosphere; one that builds into a crescendo come the films final reel. However unlike F, which kept the identity of its hooded villains shrouded in mystery, Citadel opts to turn its metaphor into a reality, taking the societal fears of a feral underclass and turning them into literal feral monsters… In the context of the films story, and the way in which it is built up  the idea of real monsters stalking a council estate works, but at the same time it feels somewhat of a cop-out considering the films socio-political angle.

Featuring a great cast, led by a superb central performance by Aneurin Barnard, and despite a climax that forgoes horror for action, this is a fantastic example of the ability of horror to have its finger on the cultural pulse. Undoubtedly a timely film and one that has been garnering a huge amount of praise on the festival circuit – which it richly deserves – Citadel is a top-notch entry into the growing, and culturally responsive sub-genre.

Citadel is available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD (iTunes etc) now in the US. Metrodome are set to release the film in the UK in June 2013.

***** 5/5

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