Dir. Prano Bailey-Bond
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
The 1970's were a notorious time for video censorship. As highlighted through the opening of CENSOR, these movies were blamed for much of societies problems and were heavily cut to a degree where the gore and violence were near reduced to nothing, at least from the directors vision. Luckily times have changed however their legacy is long remembered, as recently as just this week the chin himself Bruce Campbell responded to the BBFC regarding a tweet on censorship;
“Let’s be clear: Your system back then was draconian and myopic. Thankfully, your multi-year ‘ban’ only stoked interest in the film and made it #1 on video in the U.K. when it was finally released. Thanks for nothin’,” wrote Campbell.
Quite timely then, CENSOR handles the subject and blends worlds in such a way there's a balance of both sides. Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) works over hours reviewing films for the board cutting and scrapping scenes to pass the requirements set out. When producer Doug (Michael Smiley) specifically requests her to watch one of his films, it opens up some memories that send Enid down a rabbit hole of madness and truth as she realises that the video and the disappearance of her sister many years before are intrinsically linked.
Algar, Smiley and the rest of the cast really hold up a believable world of the 70's and the first half of the film could easily form a documentary of the video nasty saga. Some great attention to detail morphs the picture into a 70's set masterpiece. Notes to some of the era's best films are layered throughout including a fitting homage to POSSESSION as well as memories of VIDEODROME and touches of THE EVIL DEAD and MADMAN, there's no denying the love for horror from Bailey-Bond.
CENSOR is the perfect companion to BERBARIAN SOUND STUDIO studying the madness that the intensity of horror film making holds over those not in love with the art. Like BERBARIAN..., CENSOR is a brilliant mindfuck that lasts long beyond the credits and it's slow burn descent is perfectly paced for a shocking conclusion.
The brilliant transitions between videos and the events in the real world show a passion for the material. Between Annika Summerson's cinematography with Mark Towns editing really are a force to be reckoned with and as soon as the end scene takes place if you're jaw isn't on the floor then are you still breathing? Yet the real star is Algar who brings a nuance to Enid that is both strong and broken. Her professionalism at work only marred by her personal demons and ambition to find her missing sister which has two sides of the coin playing into the final act.
Like the video nasties themselves, CENSOR will have a long lived life past it's initial release and there is plenty to bring you back to this with a brilliant piece of foreboding early on when Enid visits a video shop there's much more than your standard horror hidden beneath Prano Bailey-Bond's shocking treatment that would have Mary Whitehouse turning in her grave.
There's a line said behind the camera in one scene and it should be the tagline for CENSOR as well as the horror genre in general, "Horror is out there in all of us".