British film censor, Enid, views video nasty after video nasty day in and day out, certifying ratings based on the realism of the violence, and receiving public hellfire when a gruesome murder is vilifies her approval of a film. After viewing one in particular that strikes a familiar nerve, one involving around the circumstances of her little sister’s disappearance from years ago, she digs deeper into the filmmaker’s background, piecing together a puzzle that her sister may still be alive. With her parents given up hope declaring their youngest deceased and under mounds of criticism pressure from inside and outside of work, Enid’s lone rove through distasteful filmic horror and probing the crew involved sends the censor into a frantic frenzy between what’s real and what’s not.
For the record, just so we’re clear between you and I, film censoring is a complete crock that limits artist expression and can negatively alter the tone of work far from the original message or effect. I can see where censorship is necessary for the greater good when considering public television that aims to evade young eyes from extreme violence, gore, nudity, and harsh language while still appeasing adults with a semi-intelligible cut of the film, but to have the MPAA, or any censor board for that matter, do what they do in order to classify and certify a rating to meet a criteria is a slap in the face of personal responsibility. Yes, some individuals need a rigorous structure to tell them what to do, but you know comical and asinine when there are three different cuts of a film in the U.S. market, not to forget to mention all the various versions around the globe to sate countries distinct regulations and requirements. Luckily, Prano Bailey-Bond’s immersive reality checking horror, “Censor,” makes no assumptions on the matter and we can just enjoy the dark side of story based off the UK filmmaker’s 2015 short entitled “Nasty.” The story, set in the 1980’s at the height of violent and gory VHS movies known as video nasties, is co-written by fellow “Nasty” writer Anthony Fletcher and is produced by the London based, female operated and story-driven Silver Salt Films as the company’s first feature credit and is financially supported by the Film4, Ffilm Cymru Wales, and BFI.
If not for Irish actress Niamh Algar in an virtuous cyclone encompassing lead of Enid, a stern censor agent, the dismal atmospherics whirling around Enid’s processing of possible new evidence in her sister’s vanishing wouldn’t be as timorously potent. The “From the Dark” and “Raised by Wolves” actress embodies a strong stoic stance of not only a censor with a target on her back every time the public blames her for ill-fated news involving the extreme films she approves, but also as a woman in the workplace who is subjected to subtle objectifying by male coworkers, in which some are more privately outspoken than others, and male film producers with a diminutive eyesight of her professional demeanor by making unwanted advances in lieu offering their support to make their films depicting rape and murder of usually female victims more approachable and marketable to the censor board. Algar perfectly poises Enid in her ticks, the abrasive fidgeting of her nails against each other or the slight rolling back of her shoulders that makes an awful, unnatural cracking sound, sharpen Enid’s complexion. Even Enid’s hard gulping is felt in unison of the tension of a woman on a verge of sudden collapse. Clearly the film’s one and only frontrunner as we dine off Enid’s sole perspective, Algar runs off with “Censor’s” gloomy tone by her performance of unwavering convictions blended with throbbing agitation in her character’s repressed explosion trajectory. Supporting players do their part living in Enid’s unique vision with Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, Clare Homan (“Afraid of the Dark”), Andrew Havill, Guillaume Delaunay (“Victor Frankenstein”), Richard Glover, Clare Perkins, Danny Lee Wyner, Vince Franklin, Nicholas Burns, and Michael Smiley (“The Nun”) as a topnotch sleazy extreme film producer rounding out the cast.
Performances all around are stellar and the idea is sound as I can see a video nasty censor of the 1980’s fall victim to the job because of an unclear and checkered past, but problems with pacing jet Enid from composed posture to immediate wreck in a blink of an eye without much of a fundamental development for unravelling being greatly depicted other than the jarring movie that sends her spiraling for answers. This doesn’t hurt “Censor’s” main theme of the inconclusions of what really drives the murderous animalistic qualities in all of us regarding nature versus nurture. The longstanding idea that video nasties promote influential violence and sordid behaviors has been the talk of controversy for decades and science, at least none of that I’ve read, hasn’t 100% proven that extreme films dictates the mind’s will other than those impressionable in the sponge-like children. Bailey-Bond decides not take a stance in declaring a clear cut opinion, merging both assumptions together in a mesh of madness still leaving the theorists spinning their notions and evangelical nuts spewing their anti-liberal arts sermons. What really sells “Censor” for me personally is the tell all climatic finale of Enid’s disturbing outcome in a warped contraview, flipping back and forth through the static of the back button during the times of higher numeral, unsubscribed pay-per-view channels where glimpses of picture pop into the frame for a split second.
“Censor” is nowhere near what’s consider a video nasty, but the Prano Bailey-Bond psychological thriller still has the grip of an inexorable depth for what’s to come, for violence, far from hitting the cutting room floor as the film heads to theaters June 11th and on demand one week later June 18th from Magnet Releasing. Shot in two aspect ratios, more so in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio than in the pillarbox 1:33:1 to reflect the video nasty format in the time period, Bailey-Bond and director of photography, Annika Summerson, continue to stay as true as possible to the Golden Age of 80’s horror by shooting in 35mm in a handful of various style to blend Enid’s reality with the fiction of lurid dreams and the daily grind of workplace hazards (which, to me, watching horror movies all day long sounds like a dream job! The censoring part, no so much). Runtime clocks in at 84 minutes with no wiggle room for bonus scenes during or after the credits. The Brits have always had a hell of a go with film censorship, weaponizing and vilifying for political gain, as films become the lamb for the slaughter for public outcry against social-economical woes, even arts bedeviled by the harsh censors of it’s own country, and “Censor” aims to be the carrier wave of that historical downspout of misguided judgement while also shredded the thin moral fabric of one woman’s reality into tiny bits of off the rocker guilt.