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'Citadel' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

'Citadel' movie poster.
© Cinedigm/New Video
Ireland doesn't exactly have a robust history of horror cinema, but its output has picked up in both quantity and quality since the turn of the 21st century with films such as Isolation, Dead Meat, The Eclipse and Shrooms, and the latest effort from the Emerald Isle -- Citadel -- might just be the best Irish horror movie to date.

The Plot

One day, Tommy's (Aneurin Barnard) pregnant girlfriend Joanne (Amy Shiels) is attacked by hoodied adolescent thugs outside their flat in the decrepit urban apartment building known as the Citadel. She's left in a coma, but doctors are able to deliver the baby girl, whom Tommy raises alone for nine months. By that time, he's moved out of the building but has become an agoraphobic shell, petrified to leave his home except to visit Joanne in the hospital and to attend therapy sessions.

However, Tommy's safe haven is violated when the hooded figures track him down and break into his home. He's able to ward them off, but thanks to a belligerent local priest (James Cosmo) who's had dealings with the seemingly supernatural entities, he determines what they're after: his baby daughter. Tommy must thus overcome his anxiety to protect his child and uncover the truth behind the dark and demented beings that are haunting his every moment.

The End Result

Aneurin Barnard in 'Citadel'.

Aneurin Barnard in 'Citadel'.

© Cinedigm/Flatiron Film Company
Citadel is a fascinating and hypnotic urban fairy tale that is at once real and otherworldly, its familiar elements melding with a dreamlike surreality embodied by the post-apocalyptic landscape, vaguely defined hooded creatures and atmospheric blue tint. Its child-in-peril theme delivers the emotional heft that will resonate with any parent, while the creature antagonists -- also "children in peril," as it were -- serve as pointed symbolism of the abandonment and dehumanization of street kids in today's society.

The movie plays like therapy for writer-director Ciaran Foy, who himself suffered from agoraphobia after an unprovoked assault. It's as if he awakened from his ordeal in a dark, twisted Wonderland occupied by more pubescent versions of the feral baddies from David Cronenberg's The Brood. As you'd expect from someone who experienced the disorder firsthand, he portrays it with sensitivity and realism -- but without sacrificing the pace or the potency of the genre trappings. Citadel is a wondrous achievement for such a small, low-budget film. Beautifully lensed with intense performances, it's creepy and surreal, exhilarating and touching -- all characteristics the typical mainstream Hollywood horror movie struggles to attain.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B+ (Emotional and involving.)
  • Direction: B (Bleakly atmospheric, yet attractive.)
  • Script: B (Unusually insightful for a horror flick, both on a personal level and on a societal level.)
  • Gore/Effects: B- (Good makeup effects and creature design.)
  • Overall: B (Haunting and poignant but not at the cost of thrills and chills.)

Citadel is directed by Ciaran Foy and is rated R by the MPAA for disturbing violent content, and language. Release date: November 16, 2012.

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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