Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, Censor is a British horror movie which is new to the UK and Ireland this week. The film arrives in select cinemas on Friday (check your local art house listings for show times) and stars Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, and Vincent Franklin.
Set in 1985, the movie follows the story of Enid – a British film censor, who spends her days sorting through assorted video nasties to ensure frightening and disturbing imagery doesn’t fall into the public realm. Enid is good at her job, and takes her role seriously, but she has a tragic past which forever haunts her mind.
When Enid was younger, her sister Nina disappeared under mysterious circumstances. To this day, Nina has never reappeared and is now declared dead on official records.
Nina’s disappearance has never sat well with Enid – for obvious reasons – but specifically because she can’t recall the full circumstances of the incident. Enid has hazy memories of this time period, but nothing more than this, and has always wondered what really happened the day her sister went missing.
But her memories of that day start to resurface when Enid finds herself viewing a creepy horror movie which will need to be classified as a ‘video nasty’. The movie features a scene which appears to mirror events from Nina’s disappearance, causing Enid to question why the footage seems so real.
As she looks further into the movie and its director, Enid finds herself becoming drawn more and more into the world of exploitation filmmaking. But will this help her solve a decades old mystery or simply cause her more heartache?
The first thing to say about Censor is that it is a great little horror movie. It casts the spotlight on a very interesting period of British horror film history – the video nasty era – and builds a compelling story around it.
The film uses video nasties as the jumping on point for the story, but then places the disappearance of Nina at the heart of the picture. The two story beats work in tandem with each other, to create the unnerving implication that something truly awful happened to Nina, and that video nasties are involved, and this makes for a fresh horror story.
The second thing to note is that Censor does a fantastic job of recapturing the time period in which it is set. The 1980s are brought to life through the use of clothes, language, and various sound bites, and it all feels very real.
So many retro movies these days use the 1980s as their default setting, but few manage to pull off the decade without having to resort to a jukebox of pop songs as memory joggers. Censor doesn’t do this and from the opening moments to the final shot, it is very clear when and where this movie takes place.
Everything this film does, it does right. It understands the story it is telling, it lives-and-breathes the era it is set in, and keeps trucking along nicely.
Is it the greatest horror film or all time? No, but it is still a damn good one and one which I really liked.
If you’re a fan of low-budget, story-driven horror movies, then Censor is most certainly a film to check out. This is a movie that I knew very little about going in, and one which held my attention throughout.
Sure, due to budget limitations, the movie is a little rough around the edges in places, but regardless of this, it never stops being fascinating viewing. The central mystery is enough to get audiences engaged, while various elements such as the haunting soundtrack and the moody lighting, help to keep eyes firmly on the screen.
Those looking for jump scares won’t find this here, but those who enjoy small-scale chillers will be in their element. And of course, anyone who grew up during the video nasties era will also find something that they can really connect with.
Halloween is quite some way off yet, but if you want to kick-start the season very early with something a little uncomfortable, then Censor is a picture to check out. Don’t expect huge spectacle, but do expect story-focused horror which offers something new, and will leave you with much to think about once it reaches its climax.