Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
Starring: Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller and Michael Smiley
In the early 1980s Britain was clamping down on the ‘video nasties’. Over the top, gory and sexually explicit horror films that people feared would corrupt the population. Beforehand films could be rejected, and they wouldn’t get screenings. After the invention of VHS and the home video boom, you could rent previously banned horror films, through loopholes in the law. This didn’t last long and laws were changed and films would be cut and scenes removed before a wide release – some of them still not having full releases now.
Censor is a love letter to the ‘video nasty’ era of horror films and everything that made them great. Prano Bailey-Bond has made her directorial debut with this film and if it is anything to go by then whatever comes next is going to be fantastic. Censor is a mind-bending and stylish approach to horror. Every scene is oozing with great cinematography and stylish flairs. It’s one hell of a film and it’s a shame it’s not getting a much-much-wider release.
Enid, played by Niamh Algar (Calm with Horses), is a film censor who takes pride in her work, seeing herself as a protecting people from the worst horror films imaginable. Through her work she starts to see parallels between some of the gore-fest horror films that she has to review, and the disappearance of her sister that happened when they were both children.
At its heart Censor is a look into grief. Enid can’t move on from her sister, disappearance and the film’s catalyst is when her parents tell her that they have had the sister declared dead. Algar’s performance as the grief-stricken perfectionist is outstanding. She commands the screen and you know exactly how she’s feeling with subtle expressions. Likewise Michael Smiley as the creepy film producer is great, he’s creepy and unsettling and from the first moment he’s on screen you know he’s bad news.
The whole film is creepy and unsettling with an overbearing atmosphere that builds all steadily to it’s grand crescendo at the end. It’s a relentless film that doesn’t reveal its full hand until it needs to, giving the ending a punch that will stick with you. It is perfectly shot and so many scenes look like works of art. Everything is meticulously placed and Bailey-Bond is clearly a fantastic film maker.
Censor isn’t out right scary, there are moments of gore, but nothing quite like the film’s it is honouring. There is a moment that is close to something out of Videodrome but for most of the film it is slowly building a hauntingly unsettling and creepy tone that builds and builds while you can’t look away. Behind every scene is a brooding synth soundtrack that’s subtle and punctuates the film, making it that much more tense.
Censor is a unique and fresh take on a horror film, while at the same time honouring what came before. It’s distinctively British with the 1980s setting and political backdrops – with scenes of Thatcher talking about society. The film is simply a masterpiece and it full of stylish moments and striking images. That ending is going to be something that stays with you for a while.