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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Censor' Review: Psychological Horror With *******, Video Nasties & Obsession

Niamh Algar in a forest, sad and bloodied
Magnolia Pictures

**** **** ****** *** ***. That is a spoiler being censored because we like to have a laugh every once in a while in these parts of town where as in the film called Censor, directed and co-written by Prano Bailey-Bond in her feature game debut, we aren't mucking about all that much. Video censor in question is Enid (Niamh Algar) who is just going around doing her job during the era of ''video nasties'', particularly sensitive time in the 1980s when these employees scoured through violent and sexual movies in order to give them ratings, sometimes demanding cuts to them so they would be allowed to be released. One day at work, Enid is convinced that her long-lost sister appears in one of the exploitation films and begins to track her down, all while a movie approved by her becomes the media and public's obsession after it's been thought to have inspired a gruesome, real-life murder.

Whenever you're talking about first-timers steering the ship, it doesn't get tiring to say that you were surprised how well-paced the movie was or how confident the visual storytelling appears to be. Very much starting with Bailey-Bond and co-writer Anthony Fletcher's outset about a film censor and going all the way to final descent, the story of Enid is interesting and it lends itself to horror and thriller genres very well.

Also noteworthy is that it all plays out in 80 minutes which gives the story some immediacy and intensity, even when you think about how well the film would've worked without the flashbacks - that could've made you question more about Enid's headspace and the concept of old memories - and had it given you a bit more time with our main character to expand her more as a person. Many of the best scenes in the film after all are about her work and how she handles everything mentally and physically, those are also the moments where Algar shines as she plays off of the supporting cast in a way that makes the dialogue flow.

Making good things better is that Censor isn't driven by just ideas but it also finds a path visually. Cinematographer Annika Summerson's efforts are showy but never distracting; great movement leads to stylish transitions with the help of editor Mark Towns and creating some original video nasties for the film uses the aspect ratio to its advantage (sweet, slow narrowing in the final act which you'll only notice when we're already at 1.33:1). There's also pleasant work done with colour as the moody lighting of Enid's workplace and home is combined with brash greens, purples, pinks and blues, making on-camera stuff and post-production correction really mesh. Bailey-Bond's vision is tightly executed in most aspects from music to sound and from costumes to sets, and while the film doesn't grab its potential and run with it, there is still so much style displayed here that this board will certainly approve the final output.

Smileys: Cinematography, colouring, story, Niamh Algar

Frowneys: Minor issues with characterisation and screenplay

* ******, ****** **** *****. Oh no, I thought I could get away with it in the end.


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