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A dispiriting horror cheapie whose monsters-in-the-projects premise plays out like an anti-welfare parable, Ciarán Foy‘s Citadel envisions a towering U.K. housing project that must be destroyed to kill the inhuman creatures breeding within. Unconvincing boogeymen and a lack of known talent spells very limited commercial appeal Stateside, though some genre devotees may find it satisfying.
Last year’s scrappy Attack the Block brought smart filmmaking, charismatic performances, and keen political insight to a story of monsters invading a South London council estate. Citadel is that film’s mirror. Set somewhere in the U.K., it offers a sort of slum of lost souls: A trio of apartment towers set for demolition, with utilities failing and all but the most desperate inhabitants already gone.
When his pregnant wife is gruesomely attacked by three pre-teen boys wielding syringes, Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) winds up a widower raising a prematurely-delivered baby by himself. The trauma leaves him with a crippling case of agoraphobia: With his dark-circled eyes, curly brown hair, and cowering tremor, Barnard’s performance looks wholly based on Frodo Baggins‘s most Mordor-crippled moments.
Cowley’s not crazy to feel threatened. Those menacing boys are in fact stalking him, along with an unknown number of hoodie-wearing playmates. But the kind nurse who cared for Cowley’s wife (Wunmi Mosaku) insists he’s wrong to fear these kids, who grew up in the toughest of environments; “what they need is our sympathy,” she says. Soon enough, the movie shows us what it thinks of such bleeding-heart liberalism.
The truth is known only to the local priest (James Cosmo), a disgruntled sod who swears those kids aren’t even human. When the brutes kidnap Cowley’s baby, planning to raise her in a cage to be just like them, Cowley joins the priest in a plan to destroy the apartment tower in which these goblins breed.
The film’s class-warfare overtones are hard to ignore even without Foy’s prominent use of hoodies as signifier of generic urban menace — an unfortunate choice obviously made before the Trayvon Martin shooting. But viewers undisturbed by this element will still find little to love in the film’s monotonous color scheme, thin performances, and unconvincing villains. These baddies can only see humans who are afraid of them, we’re told repeatedly. If they were to visit an auditorium showing Citadel, they probably wouldn’t see a soul.
Production Companies: Blinder Films, Citadel Films
Cast: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Jake Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku
Director-Screenwriter: Ciarán Foy
Producers: Katie Holly, Brian Coffey
Executive producers: Gillian Berrie, David Mackenzie, Keiron J. Walsh
Director of photography: Tim Fleming
Production designer: Tom Sayer
Costume designer: Anna Robbins
Editors: Tony Kearns, Jake Roberts
No rating, 84 minutes.
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