The life of a paranoid British film censor and her quest to find the answer to a mystery that has plagued her life since childhood.
The best British horror film in years has turned many a head with its experimentalism and more than unique style; low budget horrors can often be held back by restrictions which alters their product into a cheesy mess. Censor though, is a fine example of what can go well; it is artsy, elegant, and turns into quite the disturbing blood fest… eventually. It involves a British film censor called Enid (Niamh Algar) who links a disturbing horror movie to her sister’s mysterious disappearance years earlier. Slowly, she starts to lose her mind, scrambling around for answers that aren’t there, fabricating anything to solve this mystery.
This was director Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature film debut, and although slightly untidy at times, it was bold and creative and that deserves a tonne of recognition. This film almost felt like it was in two parts; the first part was a slower exploration of Enid’s psyche as she tries to piece clues together to solve her sister’s disappearance. It was mild for a horror film, a genuine slow burner that was fixated on using head trickery, ironically censoring out all the violence, leaving it up to our own imagination. What proceeds is a gigantic pendulum swing as it begins to drastically pick up pace; gory violence and clarity take centre stage, as well as the breakdown of Enid’s mental stability rapidly declining.
To say Censor was experimental is an understatement; the dream sequences and the hallucination scenes with its bright colours and flashing lights were very trippy and woke me from a very small slumber (I watched this very late at night, give me a break). I loved the irony of the whole thing though, having it revolve around censorship and the mayhem of the B movie horror world. The fact the first part was censored, and the second part wasn’t, was a clever stylistic technique, almost like a confirmation about how you cannot censor everything out – something that was brought up in the film about one of the horror films being released.
Censor begins with Enid Baines who works in a censorship office during the height of the Video Nasty controversy of the 1980s, weeding out the really bad things in new horror films, just the usual cannibal and torture stuff, a normal day in the office. Enid gets news from her parents that they have finally acquired a death certificate for her younger sister Nina (who disappeared mysteriously as a child), something that angers Enid as it means they have given up, whereas Enid believes she is still out there somewhere. Enid’s mental health is slowly deteriorating due to the intense workload, the constant worrying about her sister and the fact the tabloids have now targeted her as the person who approved a horror film with a specific “horrific” scene in it that led to a real-life murder.
On top of that (it really isn’t smooth sailing for poor Enid at the minute), horror producer Doug Smart (Michael Smiley) tells Enid that she has supposedly been picked to view a new film, specifically by its notorious director Frederick North (Adrian Schiller), much to her surprise. On viewing the film, Enid begins to see parallels with the films violent plot and her sister’s disappearance, and that the films lead resembles her long lost sister – is this a crazy coincidence or is Enid on to something?
Enid begins to participate in some extreme covert undercover work, sending her down a non-returnable rabbit hole that propels her even further towards a mental breakdown. Obsessed by the thought of her sister being kidnapped and forced into making dark horrors for an exploiting film industry and determined to find all the answers, Enid tracks down Doug, and the whereabouts of the mystery man that is Frederick North, hoping to obtain the clarity she needs for her own wellbeing. Will it end in disaster for Enid, or will everything turn into a bed of roses and redemption? Only time will tell.
I liked Censor a lot (I am no huge horror fan either by the way) I wasn’t too sure how it was going to develop because it was slow at times and meandered slightly, but it kicked into gear and became a vastly different film that salivated my taste buds ever so well. The impending violence was very much welcomed as that is what I look for in horrors, however, even the silent and slow parts that I discredited it for could be seen as being very elegant and were needed to set an atmosphere for a show stopping finish.
The acting was also brilliant, especially from Niamh Algar who really put her heart and soul into this character; ranging from insecure and scared to a ferocious screaming banshee, quite the show of acting ability. There were so many unanswered questions throughout the film – especially the cliff-hanger ending – but that is one of the things that makes it work and keeps you guessing long after it has finished. It takes a lot for me to really appreciate a modern horror as well, so you could say I was impressed with this one.