Censor is a new 2021 British horror film set in the UK in 1985. The film follows film censor Enid who, after seeing an eerily familiar video nasty that mirrors her childhood, sets out to solve the disappearance of her sister. She ends up embarking on a journey that blurs the lines between what’s real and what’s not.
The official synopsis for the film reads: “Film censor Enid takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye-gougings she pores over.
“Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past.”
This is what you need to know.
What is a video nasty?
A video nasty is a term that refers to typically low-budget horror and exploitation films. Collins Dictionary defines them as “a film, usually made for video, that is explicitly horrific, brutal and pornographic”.
They were distributed via video cassette, and were criticised for their violent content by the likes of the media and religious organisations.
The term was popularised in the early 1980s, and these films took advantage of the then-unregulated home video market. They were able to exploit a loophole in film classification laws, which meant they were able to bypass the usual review process by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
Following a campaign that involved the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association among others, a list of video nasties were deemed to have violated obscenity laws, and the police started the process of seizing the tapes and prosecuting people involved in distributing them.
Who is in the cast?
Niamh Algar stars as the film’s protagonist, Enid Baines. You might recognise Algar from her previous roles in projects such as My Name is Lizzie, Raised by Wolves, Calm With Horses, MotherFatherSon and The Bisexual.
Also rounding out the cast is:
- Michael Smiley (Dead Still, Luther)
- Nicholas Burns (Harlots, Manhunt)
- Vincent Franklin (Gentleman Jack, Bodyguard)
- Sophia La Porta (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Five)
- Adrian Schiller (The Last Kingdom, Victoria)
- Clare Holman (MotherFatherSon, The Little Drummer Girl)
- Andrew Havill (The Nevers, Trust)
- Felicity Montagu (This Time with Alan Partridge, Sally4Ever)
The film comes from director Prano Bailey-Bond, who has directed shorts such as Nasty, The Trip and Man vs Sand.
Bailey-Bond co-wrote the film alongside Anthony Fletcher, who has written shorts like Truck, Grandmother’s Footsteps, East End Stories and Forbidden.
What have the reviews said?
As it stands, Censor has an 89 per cent fresh rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, and a 59 per cent audience score.
The critic consensus on Rotten Tomatoes states: “Occasionally uneven but bold and viscerally effective, Censor marks a bloody good step forward for British horror.”
The i film critic Geoffry Macnab says that Censor is “knowing and sometimes tongue-in-cheek but it goes far beyond witty, nostalgic pastiche”.
He says: “Shooting in underpasses, forests and badly lit offices, Bailey-Bond creates an increasingly creepy atmosphere while also portraying Enid’s breakdown with sympathy and pathos.”
The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said: “Bailey-Bond creates something almost unbearably close and oppressive, like the bottom of a murky fish tank. It’s a very elegant and disquieting debut.”
Terri White, from Empire, gave the film four stars, and wrote: “Censor is a film made by a director who loves the genre. Who loves horror, who loves videotapes but specifically, video nasties. It’s not quite a love letter to the work of Argento and Fulci — but a full-hearted exploration of their influence and imagination.
“It’s clear in the detail, the specificity, the lack of judgement in Bailey-Bond’s gaze.”
Where can I watch Censor?
In the UK, Censor will be released on Friday 20 August in cinemas.
Currently, it’s not available to purchase or stream anywhere.
Censor had its world premiere earlier this year at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, on 28 January.
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