Furthers the bold female voice within the horror genre
Set amongst the backdrop of the “Video Nasty” controversy of 1980’s Britain, Censor is a lovingly detailed, at times unnerving horror film that delights in commenting, imitating, and almost spoofing the violent, controversial horror films that the British Board of Film Classification pushed so forcefully to ban. The irony isn’t lost that the nightly news at that point was broadcasting imagery which seemed to promote violence, whilst those that funnel that very source of entertainment were placing pressure on the censors board to delete the splatter films that dared to indulge in gory creativity.
Prano Bailey-Bond (who also serves as the film’s co-writer) is clearly confident in handling such material. Equally psychologically damaging as it is amusingly over-the-top in its depictions of body horror, Bailey-Bond - who explored this world in her 2015 short Nasty - navigates the moral unease of the story with an ease that suggests she’s already a genre staple. Though the influences from such great minds as David Cronenberg and Stanley Kubrick (specifically The Shining) are evident, Censor consistently maintains its own personality.
The censor of the title is Enid Baines (Niamh Algar), a rather reserved, though nonetheless passionate woman who’s clearly become almost unnaturally accustomed to the specifications of her job. In addition to having to wade through a host of B-movies in order to determine what’s worth an edit (“I’ve only trimmed the tiniest bit off the end of the genitals” is one of her reasonings to a department head) - something that in itself requires a strong stomach - she’s haunted by fragmented memories of a childhood moment in which her sister went missing. When viewing another “nasty” - a horror effort titled “Don’t Go into the Church” - she’s drawn into its visceral imagery, noting that what’s taking place on screen aligns with her own recollections of that fateful day.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The character of Enid is one that could have completely crumbled in the hands of a lesser actress. Her descent into uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of her sister, where the lines between reality and fantasy violently blur, is treated with a realism that, somehow, feels completely in tune with the exaggerated aesthetic the film eventually adopts. Niamh Algar never feels at risk of losing control of her character, even as the character herself starts to have trouble in deciphering what’s taking place in actuality and her mind.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Whilst ironically not a consistently violent film, when Censor wants to showcase its red it delights in doing so. A fIlm that takes pride in the practicality of effects, it adopts the grimy visuals of the very titles it discusses butchering, whilst similarly not overtly indulging in unnecessary gore.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Adopting the 1980’s sound to complete the immersion for its audience, there’s a synth-driven score that ultimately culminates in an eerie soundscape as the film charges towards a payoff that’s at once emotionally charged, violently themed and intentionally ambiguous.
Wearing its genre appreciation on its sleeve, Censor manages to be so much more than just a schlock imitation. Infusing genuine emotion and drama into its violent personality, Bailey-Bond and Algar have created something that furthers the bold female voice within the horror genre, celebrating the cult of the VHS splatter wave in the process.
Magnet Releasing will release CENSOR in theaters on June 11th, 2021 & On Demand June 18th, 2021