(director/writer: Prano Bailey-Bond; screenwriter: Anthony Fletcher; cinematographer: Annika Summerson; editor: Mark Towns; music: Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch; cast: Niamh Algar (Enid Baines), Michael Smiley (Doug Smart), Nicholas Burns (Sanderson), Clare Perkins (Anne), Vincent Franklin (Fraser), Adrian Schiller (Frederick North), Sophia La Porta (Alice Lee), Erin Shanagher (Debbie), Clare Holman (June), Andrew Havill (George), Felicity Montagu (Valerie), Danny Lee Wynter (Perkins), Guillaume Delaunay (Beastman), Richard Glover (Gerald), Beau Gadsdon (Young Enid), Amelie Child-Villiers (Nina); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Helen Jones; BFI/Film4; 2021-UK)
“Arty arthouse horror pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Prano Bailey-Bond makes her feature film directing debut in this arty arthouse horror pic. It’s co-written by Prano and Anthony Fletcher. The horror pic uses black humor and deep psychological intuitions to get over, as it pays tribute to the gory Brit pics referred to as the “video nasties” from the 1980s (low-budget gore and exploitation films), even showing actual footage from some of those movies. Prano’s short “Nasty” from a few years back covered the same territory but not in as much depth.
Niamh Algar (Enid Baines) is a loner, prim and earnest Brit film censor, who is single and lives a quiet life.
Censor tells of the regime of Margaret Thatcher’s conservative Tory Party, whose members are up in arms in the 1980s over ultra-violent trashy films, such as Driller Killer and Cannibal Holocaust, and wants them censored or off the market.
Enid as an examiner for the British Board of Censors and her colleagues like Sanderson (Nicholas Burns), would decide among themselves what to cut and what suggestions for the movie people to take if they wanted their film released on VHS. In one scene they accept a head decapitation, but Enid refuses to have the eye gouging scene.
When a killing in real life takes place in the same way it does in a film that Enid was asked to examine and is passed by her, she receives from the tabloids a severe rebuke and from the public hate calls and death threats through the mail for not censoring it.
While examining the slasher film called “Don’t Go in the Church,” directed by Frederick North (Adrian Schiller) and distributed by the sleaze producer Doug Smart (Michael Smiley), Enid’s taken aback by the opening scene— in which two girls play near a cabin in the woods and enter it, with one of the two ending up dead. Those details stir up memories of Enid’s own traumatic experience a decade ago, when her little sister Nina (Amelie Child-Villiers) was reported missing in the woods and never was found.
The resigned parents (played by Clare Holman and Andrew Havil) feel the need to “move on,” and have since declared the child legally dead.
Meanwhile the censor is bombarded daily by the unpleasant images from her job and the sadness that haunts her from the new revelations about her missing little sister, and she begins losing track of what’s real and what’s fiction. This turns her into another person–one who wants only to find closure over her missing little sister and is no longer her prim self.
After relating the engrossing set-up and these lively episodes to us, Censor runs out of steam and becomes stagnant. There are a few signs it still has a pulse, like its powerful dream sequence is filled with jump scares. But it’s only the up and coming star, Algar, whose riveting performance keeps things edgy while the story falls apart.
The film sets an ominous tone, and DP Summerson fully goes with its madness. It works for the horror fans who grok what it’s trying to say about evil — that it’s catching like a disease, and if your life is surrounded by it, it will leave you in a vulnerable position.
REVIEWED ON 3/11/2021 GRADE: B-