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Citadel (2012)

New Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/29/2013

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/31/2013

I try to gather my knowledge of the world from legitimate sources, and, as much as possible, I attempt to not be corrupted by entertainment. Having said that, one can obviously learn things from the movies, much of which is trivial, but still interesting. However, one shouldn't let movies create any biases or prejudices. But, if I've learned anything from Attack the Block, The Raid: Redemption, and Dredd, it's that high-rise tenement apartment blocks are very dangerous places. (Up until recently, I'd never really given this much thought, save for Candyman and that seemed like an isolated incident. I don't hear of any Candymen being on the loose.) I don't think that there are any buildings like this near me, and yet, I've built an irrational fear of them due to these movies. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, along comes Citadel.

As Citadel opens, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his pregnant wife, Joanne (Amy Shiels), are moving out of their apartment block, which has been condemned. As Tommy watches in horror from a malfunctioning elevator, Joanne is attacked by a group of children wearing winter coats. The baby survives, but Joanne goes into a coma. The story picks up several months later, where Tommy is struggling as a single parent. Due to the attack, he is crippled by agoraphobia and any attempt to leave his apartment is a challenge, even with the therapy he's receiving. Things get worse when he begins to see the children in the heavy coats again. Tommy meets a seemingly deranged priest (James Cosmo) who claims to know what the children are and how to stop them. But, in order to do so, Tommy will have to return to the apartment block, which he refuses to do. However, when it's clear that his daughter is being targeted, Tommy realizes that he must face his fears.

Citadel comes from Writer/Director Ciaran Foy, who is making his feature film debut. The film was shot in Ireland and shows that the Irish show just as much about urban horror as anyone else. While the story is a bit too vague at times (more on that in a moment), Foy does a good job of creating an oppressive atmosphere in the film. He takes us into Tommy's world where, once he's outside, anyone and anything can be a threat. This feeling is enhanced by landscapes which contains houses and people, but yet, seem to be devoid of life. Agoraphobia has been tackled in movies before, but I can't remember one in which the protagonist was wheeling a stroller at the same time and this certainly adds something to the movie. (I've read some comments on-line where viewers found Tommy annoying. I don't understand this as the movie does a good job of portraying how someone with PTSD and a victim mentality would behave. Not every character in a movie can be a "man of action".)

Apart from that angle, Citadel does lose some credibility in the originality department. Aside from the above-mentioned films which takes place in high-rise apartment buildings, the movie owes a lot to the 2006 French film Ils (AKA Them), in which a couple is attacked by a group of assailants wearing hoods. The look of the attackers in Citadel is also very reminiscent of those seen in David Cronenberg's The Brood. The movie also has some issues with the story. The story behind the attackers is vague at best and never really gels. Nor does the explanation of their motivations, which seem to vacillate during the film. (We see them attack someone, and yet, in another scene, they leave Tommy alone.) The movie does attempt to explain this, but Foy may have been better off leaving some parts of the story a mystery.

It appears that the "bad things happen in a dilapidated high-rise" movie is becoming a genre unto itself and Citadel is a solid entry. The script could have used some polishing, but Foy is able to squeeze some nice jump scares out of the story and there are a few decidedly creepy moments. The acting is solid and Barnard does a good job of carrying the movie. Citadel has its share of issues, but it may make you think twice when you see a group of bundled-up youngsters coming your way.

Citadel highlights the importance of getting to the bus stop on time on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of New Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source material. This is a dark film (the extra features show how visual effects made some shots darker), but only a few shots were too dark. The landscape is devoid of bright colors, but the black tones here are true and show no oversaturation. The level of detail is fine, as we can make out textures on objects and the depth is notable in the exterior shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a lively track which plays well to the subject matter. We get very nice surround and stereo effects which often highlight sounds coming from off-screen to illustrate Tommy's fear. The scene in which Tommy is convinced that something is in his apartment is very well done. The subwoofer effects add to these moments with well-placed "thumps".

The Citadel Blu-ray Disc contains a smattering of extras. "Citadel: Inside the Fear" (19 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains interviews with Writer/Director Ciaran Foy and the cast. Foy shares his personal story and how his experiences influenced the screenplay. The actors talk about the story and their approach to their characters. We see some concept art for the attackers and see the special effects makeup being applied. The production design is then discussed and we see how visual effects helped to make things seem even more bleak. We get a nice amount of on-set footage here. We next get "Interviews" with Ciaran Foy (32 mintues) and Aneurin Barnard (11 minutes). Some of the footage here found its way into the making-of piece. The final extra is the TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.