CITADEL sounds kind of silly when you hear a one-sentence synopsis. It's definitely a movie where atmosphere and execution are much more important than plot and that's definitely where this film shines. It's not perfect by any means, but CITADEL is unique and tries its hardest to be effective, which puts it above most standard horror films today.
The movie won the Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival and it's not hard to see why. The horrifying opening sequence sets up the rest of the movie with a memorable punch to the throat. I won't spoil the specifics, but our main character Tommy watches helplessly as his pregnant wife is brutally attacked by a group of hooded children. It's such a harrowing, visceral scene before the title card that you completely sympathize and connect with Tommy for the rest of the movie as he's crippled with fear and terrified to leave his home. It's not every film where you root for a character who's scared of his own shadow.
Following the eye-opening prologue, the first hour of CITADEL is a slow burn that sets up the characters and the setting. We never learn exactly what's going on in Edenstown, but it just seems strange—very closed off, helpless, almost dystopian-like. Which is why the addition of scary mutant children works so well. Again, we don't know too much about where they came from or what they are exactly (director Ciaran Foy seems to understand and exploit the fact that the unexplained is often scarier) but they're a fun spin on the modern zombie. The kids are attracted to and feed off people's fear and thus can randomly attack anyone, unprovoked. It's a set up for a tense thriller, a small-scale mix between 28 DAYS LATER and some old-school NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
CITADEL is anchored by Irish actor Aneurin Barnard in a fantastic, memorable performance. His Tommy is beset by crippling panic attacks and constant frustration and Barnard sells the phobia flawlessly. When his daughter gets taken by the gangs, he must confront his personal nightmare and travel to their fortress to get her back. To do so, he teams up with the only man with any knowledge of the enemy—a foul mouthed priest played by Game of Thrones actor James Cosmo. The dynamic between the two is great and when they finally venture in to the lion's den in the final 20 minutes, CITADEL matches the intensity it started with.
Inside the Fear (19:07): A Making Of featurette that heavily features interviews with the cast and crew.
Interviews (43:26): An extended chat with the director and star, some of which was used in the previous feature. A bit more of Foy's personal connection to the movie.
CITADEL is a small, obviously low budget film but it uses that to its advantage as a claustrophobic thriller. With a great lead performance from Aneurin Barnard, it's not your typical horror movie. And that's a good thing.
Extra Tidbit: CITADEL is somewhat autobiographical for director Ciaran Foy, who himself became agoraphobic after suffering a violent attack. According to him, getting accepted in to film school was the one thing that helped cure him.