November 17, 2012 -- “Citadel” is a low-budget horror film shot in Ireland and Scotland. It features an unhinged priest with a dark past (played by James Cosmo of “The Last Legion”) and demons, too, but it isn't really supernatural. This film shows us a place which is a little bit off-kilter from the universe we know, a kind of dark, scary, urban hell where inhuman creatures stalk the vulnerable.
Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard of “Ironclad”) witnesses a fatal attack against his pregnant wife in a blighted tower apartment complex called the Citadel. He suffers from debilitating agoraphobia, finding it almost impossible to leave his apartment with his young child, born after the attack and before his wife's death. He must get out, however, to prove to the social service agencies that he is a fit father. At his wife's funeral, the priest tells him that the same gang of feral youths who attacked Tommy's wife now wants to take his child.
Tommy goes to the priest and demands the priest to tell him what he knows of this renegade gang. The priest takes Tommy to the Citadel and watches in horror as the gang attacks the car, breaking out a window before the priest drives away. The priest tells Tommy that Tommy's fear is what attracts the gang, which is composed of inhuman demons. Anyone who is with Tommy, including his child, is in danger from the gang, the priest says. A young blind boy, Danny (Jake Wilson) a ward of the priest, has no fear and can hide Tommy from the gang, as long as Tommy holds onto him.
Tommy is also helped by a kindly nurse, Marie (Wunmi Mosaku of “I am Slave”) who doesn't believe the stories about the demon gang menacing the Citadel. This film is short on action and long on suspense and mood. Tommy's fear of the outside world is mirrored by the film's stifling dark atmosphere. Tommy lives in a world constrained by his fear. He hides indoors. When he ventures outside it is usually dark. The streets are often deserted. He doesn't have a car. The local bus driver is not friendly or helpful and Tommy is often stranded by the bus. The one time in the movie when the bus comes to his rescue, it turns out to be only a temporary reprieve from the menace that frightens Tommy.
Eventually, the demon gang steals the child and Tommy and the priest must brave the terrors of the demon nest in the Citadel, at night, during a power outage, to rescue the child, aided by the brave blind boy, Danny. Although this is a simple and predictable story setup, it takes a long time to develop. The first part of the film has a rather slow pace. We never get a good look at the demon gang members, which is probably just as well. The demon gang is composed of children and youths. The priest advocates killing them all. Marie argues that the members of the gang are just unwanted and misled. They should be embraced rather than feared.
The idea of killing all these children is troubling to Tommy, and it should be. He must first be convinced, as the priest is, that these gang members are not human. This is an old trick, classifying a group of people, blacks, Jews, the Irish, Catholics, Protestants, as less than human. It makes it easier for us to kill them if we think they are not the same as us. The film makes a pretty strong case that the demon gang is less than human, but it is still a troubling argument. By the way, the police are no help at all in any of this. This film rates a C.
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