One of the most anticipated British films of the year is finally here. Censor has been the subject of much discussion since its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it’s easy to see why. The film takes place in the early 1970s during the height of the Video Nasties craze and follows Enid Baines, an employee at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), who is put under public scrutiny after it is alleged that a film she allowed for release may have inspired a real life murder. Paired with an incident that sees her watch a film that looks like her missing sister, Enid’s sanity and knowledge between fact and fiction begin to merge together into a horrorshow that will see you falling down the rabbit hole with Enid.
The film has been directed by Prano Bailey-Bond who also cowrote the script with Anthony Fletcher. What is fantastic about Bailey-Bond’s approach is how authentic and well-researched every aspect of the film feels from the time period setting to the quality of the film and the methods that they would be shown to the censors. What separates a good horror from an excellent horror, especially in modern times, are their ability to merge the genre with social commentary and despite its early 1970s period stamp, Censor feels as timely as ever. Bailey-Bond’s fearless depiction of mental health deterioration as well as questioning the relationship between entertainment and media takes you on a journey that is unpredictable and highly rewarding to watch.
Niamh Algar is definitely one of this year’s stellar breakouts. Her turn as Enid Baines is a masterclass of characterisation as we see the character’s downward spiral into chaos and madness until the lines between reality and fiction become blurred. Filling the character with plenty of mannerisms such as her fidgeting as well as the detachment from the films she has to watch every day. The horror genre has brought us a slew of iconic characters in recent years, especially strong female characters and Enid Baines can sit confidently among them. The audience’s attention is captured from the beginning all the way through to the end and with horror acting as a groundbreaking genres for rising filmmakers to delve into, Censor works fantastically as a character study while subverting the horror genre and ripping the rule book.
The supporting cast do a great job of backing Algar and adding to the suspense and tension. In particular, Michael Smiley does a brilliant job as Doug Smart, a controversial producer whose films have garnered a negative reputation with the general public. Smart immediately takes a shine to Enid and insists that she reviews his latest project which sets the film in motion, Smiley brings a subtle and subdued quality that makes every movement and line unpredictable. Making the most of every second he is on screen, Smiley can always be relied upon to bring an unexpected performance.
One of the many highlights in this film is the score that has been composed by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. Much like the script, cinematography and editing, the score merges a modern horror score with music that feels reminiscent of the 1970s horror music to create something that feels unique and distinctive. There are many scenes where it feels as though the music is its own character such as the scenes where Enid ventures through the train station and sees a woman who looks like her sister. The score in these moments feel as though it is Enid’s past creeping up on her and haunting her every move.
What makes Censor such an appealing film to watch is how brilliabtly crafted the cinematography and editing is. Edited by Mark Towns and cinematography by Annika Summerson, the film flits between a 1970s aesthetic and how a video nasty would appear on VHS. With the video nasty VHS quality becoming more prominent later on, it seems that the film itself is reflective of Enid’s state of mind and actually questions whether the film is a video nasty in itself as it blends between the fact and fiction. The dark colour palettes of the film add a disarming effect and blur those lines between sanity and madness.
If there is one horror that you plan on seeing this year then make sure it is Censor. Wickedly original with a script and direction that is filled to the brim with creativity and ambition. From beginning to end, you are transported into this world and the mind games that it plays with you mean that it’s merging of genres works so well. Bolstered by an amazing cast and with every aspect of the film so well thought out, Censor is by far one of the best films of the year and it’s exciting to see where Bailey-Bond’s career goes following this incredible feature debut.
What did you think of Censor? Let me know in the comments below!
Censor is out in cinemas now!