Thursday, 4 April 2013

Citadel, dir/wr. Ciaran Foy, st. Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Jake Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku

Most definitely a film of two halves, Foy's urban horror begins by ratcheting up near-unbearable levels of malevolence before the whole thing unravels in the second half and, regrettably, Citadel becomes just another monster movie. Tommy (Barnard) and his pregnant wife Joanne are about to move out of their mangy old tower block when she is set upon by hooded youths. The baby survives the attack and Tommy attempts to raise the child himself, still tormented by the (possibly supernatural) same gang. Foy's blinder is his film's desolate setting; the juxtaposition between minimal cast and vast expanses of space are unsettling in the extreme. Initially it seems that Tommy and Joanne are the only ones living in the block (they're the last occupants to leave the condemned building), but even the snow-covered estate Tommy moves to after the attack seems to be similarly uninhabited. Bus drivers - caged into their cockpit - are surly and uncooperative. Everything is in a state of stagnation and decay. The figures that congregate around the looming tower blocks are effectively creepy. It's an old ruse to keep their faces hidden and movements unnatural, but coupled with Tommy's nascent agoraphobia, it's particularly unsettling. However, once a sweary and bearded priest (Cosmo) shows up and appears to have Information That Confirms The Evil, we're onto a strictly predetermined path that leads, unsurprisingly, back into the belly of the beast and once more unto the menacing citadel where Tommy must confront his fear. I have written at great length how great horror ideas all too often run out of steam rather than build on innovative and successfully chilling concepts, and Citadel sadly is no exception. There's a great performance from Barnard as the troubled Tommy, pushed into solitary fatherhood whilst mourning his wife, torn between the fierce and unconditional love and protection for his child and the inner and outer monsters that torment him, and there's a vague whiff of politicised class commentary might the film have had the cajones to explore it further. But alas not even a suitably shuddery tomandandy score can rescue Citadel once it's unhooded.