Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Citadel: Fear is the Whole Point
are not merely the misunderstood and marginalized. The hellions inhabiting a shunned Irish
housing project thrive on fear. In fact,
they can literally see it. Whether they
are truly supernatural creatures or not is left rather ambiguous, but their
feral savagery is beyond doubt throughout writer-director Ciarán Foy’s Citadel (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Cowley and his pregnant wife were the last decent people to move out of their
ominous looking housing project.
Unfortunately, they waited too long.
While trapped in the typically malfunctioning elevator, Cowley witnesses
the fatal assault on his wife. However,
their infant daughter Elsa survives. The
incident deeply scars Cowley. An
agoraphobic basket case, he becomes convinced the hoodie shrouded thugs are
after Elsa. He might be a nervous wreck,
but he is not paranoid.
several harrowing nighttime home invasions, Cowley barricades himself and Elsa
in the bathroom as the hooded hooligans rampage through their flat. Cowley finds a sympathetic ear and temporary
shelter with Marie, a kindly nurse. She
insists the delinquents living in the title high rise are just disadvantaged
youths, who lash out to vent their frustration with the system. Unfortunately, she will be proved dead
wrong. However, the misanthropic parish
priest understands what they are only too well.
Barnard is almost too convincing as Cowley.
Every twitch of his body language screams victim. To see him is to want to mug him. He is so put-upon, viewers almost, but don’t
quite lose patience with him.
Conversely, James Cosmo tears into the scenery and everything not nailed
down with rip-roaring relish as the caustic priest.
Foy eventually drops some pretty clear hints regarding the nature of the
Citadel dwellers, it hardly matters.
They are simply mindless tormentors.
As anyone who has watched Room 237
(the cinematic deconstruction of Kubrick’s The
Shining) understands, authorial
intent is irrelevant to critical theory.
With that in mind, Citadel can
clearly be interpreted as an allegory for the War on Terror, regardless of Foy’s
al-Qaeda and their ilk, the hooded ones spread terror for its own sake. There is no reasoning with them. The West can lock ourselves in the bathroom
and hope they go away, but that strategy is doomed to failure over time. Marie is attractive and conciliatory, like
many left of center appeasers, but her course only leads to death. To protect the future of liberal democracy for
Elsa and the rest of our children, we need to follow the advice of the priest,
the ugly, foul-mouthed Cheney figure and hook up the plastic explosives to the
Right, or possibly not. The point is Citadel taps into some profound fears, burrowing under the skin
like a bionic tick. It has to be the
grittiest, grimiest, grimmest horror film you are likely to see in a good long
time. Cinematographer Tim Fleming’s
oppressively grey look sets the mood of foreboding right from the start, while
Foy steadily builds the tension as he repeatedly cranks Cowley through the
wringer. Despite the absence of a strong
focal villain, it is a chillingly effective horror film. Highly recommended for genre fans, Citadel opens this Friday (11/9) in New
York at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Horror Movies, Irish Cinema