by Hope Madden
Catch catch a horror taxi
I fell in love with my video nasty
Stern, driven Enid (Niamh Algar) takes her responsibilities seriously. Unfortunately for her, they come at a high price. Enid is a film censor in the most punishing time and place for such an endeavor: Thatcher’s England. It’s 1985, an era when controversial films hoping to make their way to screens big and small found themselves more butchered than their characters.
Co-writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond takes inspiration from this notion in her feature debut, Censor—an immersive era-specific horror. It is especially immersive for Enid.
She spends long hours deliberating on exactly where the line is between danger and acceptability: rewinding, examining frame by frame, if necessary, regardless of the nonchalance and casual derision of her co-workers. Enid is convinced it is her duty to protect people from these images.
As she herself drowns in repeated viewings of the most violent and depraved material, you have to wonder whether she might be better off protecting herself.
Bailey-Bond has other questions in mind, like why is it that Enid is so preoccupied with this job, how might it feed her own darkness, and what happens when her worlds blend together?
Censor is a descent into madness film—nothing new in the genre. And moments of Censor can’t help but call to mind fellow Brit Peter Stickland’s 2012 treasure Berberian Sound Studio. But Bailey-Bond and co-writer Anthony Fletcher evoke such a timestamp with this film, not just in the look and style, but with the social preoccupation.
As coincidences pile up – a definitive family decision, a horror movie-style murder spree, a film that hits too close to home — Enid seems to suspect that her real motive has been to censor her own thinking.
When she stops doing that, look out.
Algar’s prim and sympathetic, deliberate and brittle. It’s clear from the opening frame that Enid will break. But between Algar’s skill and Bailey-Bond’s cinematic vision, the journey toward that break is a wild ride.