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Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 09.25.12] horror thriller drama


Sometimes you can resume the core of any human creation in a single derogatory sentence. In our present case I can easily encompass the whole soma of this movie in such way. Let me warn you about Citadel: This is a story about a coward wanting to save his baby daughter from a bunch of mildew-mutated hoodie-clad kids.

Not teenagers, kids. In hoodies. And sadly it's not intended as a comedy, which should be the only shelf from something as cliche and ludicrous as "hoodie horror."In fact it's so Meh I almost slashed my wrists out of boredom. It even spoiled my evening as after enduring that tripe my mood was dead set on getting home and munch on a doner kebab. Weeks of dietary willpower annihilated. Such shame.

To expand a little around the one-liner pitch above, this piece is the story of Tommy. Who's living in a soon to be demolished housing complex and whose pregnant wife is assailed by some small hooded figures while he is stuck in the elevator. Once he manage to reach his beloved lay it's of course too late and she's laying in her blood. Obligatory scene of hospital where the hero is restrained, obligatory handing of the newborn child she was about to hatch anyway.

This is already corny as hell, and could have spawned some revenge actioner, with the hero killing kids with a spiked aluminium baseball bat. Instead it goes for the psychological route of a broken man living in fear, translated on screen by the dormouse-looking hero with his offspring he pushes around in a prawn afraid of everything. And since his doing this in some urban no man's land, it ends up looking like some hilarious caricature of woe. I was expecting him to go “och ochon” in pure early Irish-novel style.

The rest is a mess of accumulated cliches, foam-cut secondary characters (a nurse, who's global credo is "gang teens just need love", and a vigilante priest with a personal vendetta against the gang of children) none believable further than their introductory shot.

And there's the gang of kids. Honestly that's where I completely went out of the ride to ponder some things while nothing pretty much was happening on screening anyway. I'm not going to say I wasn't already bored out of my mind at that point, but that seemingly unending supply of mutated-hooded kids brought me out of the movie and I started counting.

I'm the first one to call those towering buildings of the late 20th century "battery farming applied to the human species", but still... Let's get some maths here. Let's say one original couple giving birth to the first generation and that then interbred and occasionally snatched a child here and there. Even with a constant flow of pregnancies you're bound to get a smaller number of creatures and a wider age discrepancy. Also meaning there should be adults. Speaking of logistics, even if they lick the mildew off the walls and gobble stray cats slow enough to get caught, they have to be fed. Clothing is also problematic, how in the name of Logic do they find all those samey looking hoodies and clothes? Not even approaching the topic of how come such a growing population wasn't found beforehand and only surfaces now.

I won't surprise you in saying that the baby will be snatched and both the dachshund and the priest will go at night inside the building to burn down the nest and get back the stolen goods before it gets too much damaged.

Of course since it's supposed to be some kind of a horror movie you'll get one or two scares relying on the usual "boo" effect. Or namely to fit the modern credo "an underfed androgyn in a dirty hoodie with a face like a leper going "shrieeeeeeeeek" at the camera, shot in grey and green with added flickering torchlight, and post rock "crescendo-core" soundtrack".

Most of the soundtrack when it's not the aforesaid generic hipster-friendly post-rock is the little excrescence going full blown siren. There are surely, somewhere, somewhen, people who when hearing one of those small parasites wail like the fabled trumpets of Jericho, want to run and help and provide comfort and shelter. I just want to smash it between two rocks so that the noise ceases. So I'm not really receptive when using that sound as a beacon of hope and courage for the pathetic excuse of a hero served here.

There's a saying floating around like a meme: "Shopping is cheaper than a psychologist", I'm beginning to think there's a new arty trend to this namely "film-making is cheaper than therapy". It's not the fist film in recent days that was sold to the audiences with some adjoining story on how it's based on some dramatic event in the life of the film-maker, be it real or marketed I don't care. But this sounds like trying to compensate the lack of any cinematic brilliance with added real-life pathos.

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