The video nasties, a supposed scourge on British society in the 1980s, form the catalyst for Censor, a slightly bumpy though ultimately satisfying horror film. For those unfamiliar with the term, the nasties were ultra gory horror movies that managed to bypass the censorship procedures of the time, the legislation proving ill-equipped to handle the rise of VHS and the ability for these features to be seen in private. This loophole was closed, and many a censor then spent a great deal of their working life watching various dramatised decapitations and lurid sexual assaults to determine whether the general public should be allowed to see them.
Enid (Niamh Algar) is one such censor, spending her days diligently inspecting horror titles, making recommendations about how many seconds of a disembowelling should be cut before a picture can be released. A random work assignment strikes an unexpected chord with the protagonist, leading her to investigate an unsolved mystery from her past, with the potential for a gruesome result.
Director Prano Bailey-Bond has evocatively captured London in the 1980s, albeit on a necessarily oppressive level. The feature boasts a gorgeous retro aesthetic that is never overplayed, and the filmmaker captures her scenes with an elegance that offsets the wonderfully schlocky violence in the movies Enid has to watch. The setting and general tone are greatly assisted by archival news footage of various politicians and commentators, twitching and clutching their pearls at the menace posed by cheaply produced straight-to-video releases.
There are a few pacing issues, particularly in the second act. There is a rapid escalation and then de-escalation of peril, which is presumably designed to lull viewers into a false sense of security, but which comes across as uneven, as though the film is procrastinating before it gets to the good stuff.
But the good stuff eventually makes an appearance, and it’s definitely worth the slightly patchy setup. The climax is beautifully unhinged, pitched perfectly by Niamh Algar. Censor becomes a knowingly teasing homage to the video nasties from which it takes its inspiration.
Censor does not have a UK release date yet.
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