British Horror ‘Censor’ is a Visually Gripping Look at the Darker Side of Film Viewing

Niamh Algar appears in Censor by Prano Bailey-Bond. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer

Plot: After viewing a strangely familiar “Video Nasty” a film censor sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

Review: Here’s a quick history lesson for ya. Video Nasty was the colloquial term used in England in the early 1980s to describe movies that were considered exploitative. These films were heavily edited or “censored” by a board before being released or some were completely banned from distribution, most famously among them at the time was The Exorcist. Which brings us to Censor, a movie that follows a young woman named Enid, played by Niamh Algar (Raised by Wolves, MotherFatherSon) who works as an editor during this era and finds herself drawn to one of these films when she suspects her sister, who has been missing for years, is one of the actors in a film called Don’t Go in the Church.

When you realise The Human Centipede is not a scientific documentary

Director Prano Bailey-Bond and her co-writer Anthony Fletcher must’ve loved the classic horror movies of the 70s and early 80s as Censor immediately shows it’s something different by looking like it fell straight out of this timeline. Films like Suspiria, Don’t Look Now and Alice Sweet Alice come to mind while watching, not for their stories mind you, but for the immaculate job Bailey-Bond does of making Censor look and feel like these classic films (parts of the movie was shot on 35mm and 8mm film). As it goes on and the trauma Enid has struggled with all her life starts to unravel her mentally, the movie itself starts to look more like the grindhouse films that inspired this type of censorship in the first place. Films like The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave that shocked the general populace all have a place here, and I even found myself forgetting this movie was made in 2021! From a visual standpoint Censor wins on every level.

Censor also manages to tap into that darker side we all have, the side of us that watches these movies hoping to see something gruesome, something gory, something we’re not supposed to see. It’s brilliant really as this is what lies at the heart of why films such as the ones mentioned above were banned or censored in the first place. People don’t like to admit it, but the fascination of watching horror such as this from the safety of your home is why horror movies are successful in the first place.

This is how many minutes of suitable footage is left

I enjoyed a lot of this film, but it gets a bit tedious when the focus shifts from the people of that era (incorrectly) believing these movies would be the death of civilisation to Enid’s trauma and her increasing obsession with finding out what happened to her sister.

Actress Niamh Algar does a wonderful job of conveying how broken Enid is under her veneer of conservatism and perfection, but I preferred it when the focus was on the larger story of how this kind of censorship was used both as a weapon to control the masses and as an excuse by those who wanted to get away with their heinous crimes. Remember the guy who killed his family? Turns out he never saw the movie he blamed for his actions. More of this and less of Enid’s mental breakdown would’ve been my cup of tea, but it doesn’t mean Censor doesn’t have a lot to offer fans of the genre.

Sommer’s Score 6.5 out of 10

You can check out more British horror content below:

‘The Power’ is An Unnerving and Intensely Creepy Period Horror

British Gothic Horror ‘Amulet’ is Stylish but Sluggish

2755F829-2EEC-4A68-B6F7-F963F48C9D92 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

Double Tap Baby!

Read More