Have you ever heard of the term video nasty? Well back in the 80s, these were films that were a special kind of grotesque. They were deemed by the public to be too violent or exploitative for public consumption. So a special kind of censorship came into play. This is where the film Censor comes in as it follows one such government official who censors these films. This individual is Enid (Niamh Algar). She’s fantastic at her job but she has something that haunts her. There is a past tragedy that spurs Enid in this job. She sees this as her way to protect the public from the obscene monsters who make these films.
Then one day she sees something in a film that she is working on and it triggers her. It leads her down a winding road of murder and mayhem.
A Video Nasty requires Censor
Censor is a fascinating film from the perspective of cinematic history. I didn’t know about this dark corner of English cinema and hearing about and seeing what this supposedly did to the English audience was bizarre. I loved it. The world of the video nasty is taboo and Enid is someone who fights against it. So when she falls down this disturbed rabbit hole it feels tawdry.
Director Prano Bailey-Bond brings a claustrophobic and tense mood to the whole film. The close-ups between the characters are uncomfortable. The lighting makes them look exhausted and frazzled. To me, this makes the characters in Censor all the more vulnerable, especially Enid who gives off a fragile demeanour. She has a tremendous weight on her shoulders and it’s visible. Niamh Algar is brilliant as Enid. She has an ethereal presence that begins as controlled and well structured and eventually falls into chaos. It’s a perfect marriage between an actor and their writer/director.
You’d be surprised what the human brain can edit out
The use of light in Censor adds to the tension which ratchets up every 20 minutes. There are splashes of neon colours at times that paint the film in a terrifying light. They inject an eerie motif into every scene they can be found. Couple this with some inventive gore and there are several memorable images in this film.
The film also makes some pointed jabs at film discourse and even though it’s been decades since the 80s some things about film never change.
Censor is a strange torturous journey that Enid embarks and it’s enthralling to go along with her. I couldn’t take my eyes off the film. There were so many questions that I was asking throughout the course of the film and in the tight runtime the film has, 84 minutes, it delivers on all of them by the film’s unnerving climax.
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