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Film Review: Citadel

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Citadel
Directed by Ciaran Foy
Starring: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson
Out this Friday (July 12)

(out of five)

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“This is no place to raise a child,” proclaims one the many distressed inhabitants of Edenstown, the modern-mythical dystopia that’s the setting for Ciaran Foy’s Citadel.

A horror movie that fuses Hitchcockian sensibilities with contemporary anxieties about amoral youth, Citadel has been showered with awards on the festival and fringe circuits and imaginatively uses everyday features to reveal the menace within.

The story follows the ghastly misfortunes of Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard), an agoraphobic who lives, or just about survives, on the dilapidated Edenstown housing complex, a place where morality has departed and hope of its return is declining.

It’s a milieu of virulent melancholy, overrun by feral youths who attack and infect their victims with vampiric zeal.

When Tommy’s wife Joanne (Amy Shiels) is killed by a gang of hooded thugs, Tommy is left literally holding their baby, whom he must protect from the gang’s rapacious clutches. With the advice of a saturnine Catholic priest to help him — “They can see fear” –— Tommy has to fight to guard his child’s welfare, while still retaining his own humanity.

It’s rare for Irish film to visit the creepy climes of the horror genre, which is perhaps surprising given the number of ghost stories we tell and the fact that Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker created two of the classic gothic figures (Dorian Gray and Dracula respectively).

Still, there have been Irish cinema successes in the field, including Samantha Mumba in the comedy-zombie flick Boy Eats Girl (2005) and the excellently sorrowful Ciaran Hinds in Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse (2009).

Aficionados of the genre will recognise in Citadel the traces of Danny Boyle, Alfonso Cuaron and particularly John Carpenter, whose urban chillers, like Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), echo in Foy’s movie.

Horror films should not be lumped together. The genre has myriad vaults. There’s the magical (featuring vampires, werewolves, etc), the fantastical (Godzilla, King Kong), the emotional and psychological (Halloween, Friday the 13th).

Foy’s narrative world, like Carpenter’s, stretches reality only just a little bit. Whereas Wilde and Stoker invented phantom characters to give symbolic expression to our subconscious moral uncertainties, the story circumstances that stir terrifying doubts in Citadel might actually be all too real.

Edenstown might not be a suitable place to raise a child, but where is in this wicked world?

Citadel is released this Friday

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