For those of you old enough to remember, Censor takes us back to the mid 80’s and a hysterical period led by The S*n newspaper and Mary Whitehouse in banning “video nasties” as they were called, because they were going to melt our brains and turn us all into raging lunatics that wanted to murder everybody with drills, summon satanic beasts with ancient rituals or simply just axe murder passers by, or something like that…
Film censor Enid takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye gougings she pores over. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past.
Censor embraces the time period majestically. From the video shop and their under the counter shenanigans with ‘banned’ videos, to the street and house decors. It really brings to life the time period for anyone who lived through the 80s. And punching through this with some serious gore, that reminds you of the genre of the 80s, causing you some relative unease.
The film itself is more than just a period piece though, with its claustrophobic corridors and murky streets, it really brings to bear the films central character Enid (Niamh Algar), a stoic, troubled perfectionist who intently pours over every frame of films again and again to ensure that nothing escapes through the system. Unlike some of her colleagues who clearly are just trying to get to pay day and ignore all the furore surrounding their jobs as censors.
The film engrosses you from the get go, with the film slowly unravelling it’s secrets as we discover Enid’s past and how a single film that she is currently reviewing for censorship causes the trigger for her mental health to decline, coupled with the fact a recent crime has similarities to a film that she was involved in censoring has hit the headlines, it’s a raw decent into Enid’s world. The strength of Censor is on Niamh’s performance which is a revelation. Once you realise what could have happened, you are unwavering in your support of Enid, however unlikely the outcome.
The supporting cast are stereotypical 80’s characters, the creepy guy, the supportive co-worker, the doesn’t really care about his job guy. Her parents are detached and don’t understand her, with her fathers simmering anger bubbling away clearly blaming Enid for the events of the past. However this is where director Prano Bailey-Bond excels, because they all feel real, despite their blandness. Vincent Franklin as the slimy movie producer Fraser who may or may not be the key to Enid’s spiralling is particularly great.
As a first time feature film director, Prano Bailey-Bond, Censor is a triumph. Not a bad opening for your feature film career. The film, itches and scratches away at the surface as Enid becomes a mental health ticking time bomb. Censor is more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s neatly constructed, a packs a mighty punch. Just don’t expect all the answers. Part of Censors appeal is having to pick it apart and read between the lines.
Prano Bailey-Bond and Niamh Algar are definitely one’s to watch and you can start that with Censor, if you are ready to feast your eyes on the uncut journey.