Due to a tragic turn of events, Tommy is left with his wife in a coma and an extreme case of agoraphobia, all the while looking after his nine month old daughter. When his house is attacked by a group of almost feral children who reside in a local tower block, Tommy is approached by a local priest who has one aim: rid the area of these murdering pests.
When watching the first five minutes of Citadel, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a straight drama. Whilst its opening is somewhat harrowing, it sets the scene in suitably ominous and dreary fashion that serve as that catalyst for our protagonist’s main character arc. The brutal attack buy a gang of hooded youths that leaves his pregnant wife in a coma (SPOILER ALERT: she never comes out of it) could almost be construed as its own short film, the kind of small tight project you’d see screened at independent film festivals.
It also serves, as any opening does, as the catalyst for the rest of the film. Given it was filmed in and around Glasgow, you almost wish it was the start of something in the vein of Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, a strict character drama about a man who’s life is all but destroyed by an act of casual violence, with the remainder of the film built around his struggle to come to terms with his predicament whilst also raising his baby daughter.
Unfortunately, being a horror film, this isn’t the case, and the film suffers to such a degree that you’re left feeling all the more stupid for having seen it. Director/screenwriter Ciaran Foy should have taken a leaf from the Good Will Hunting school of screenwriting and abandoned the horror elements altogether (Good Will Hunting started life as a conventional thriller), such is the strength of the earlier scenes. But alas, once the crazy priest arrives with his unquenchable blood lust for all things pre-pubescent, you can’t help feeling any respect for the film or the filmmakers is totally scuppered in favour of something generic and ill conceived.
In short, Citadel is a cracking drama unnecessarily hidden under typical urban horror troupes that should never have been there. Foy’s directing style is suitably gritty for the grungy, dirty scenery but when the horror kicks in, it’s extraordinarily unwelcome.