Stars: Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Michael Smiley
This clever and atmospheric horror is set in during video nasty hysteria of the tumultuous early 80s.
The skilfully-mounted opening provides a context as outraged Tory MPs and concerned family value types voice their fears that films such as ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ and ‘Driller Killer’ will become accessible to minors via home video, their concerns juxtaposed with a blizzard of lurid and violent imagery, some of it from real video nasties.
Algar, so excellent in ‘Calm With Horses’, continues to impress as Enid, a buttoned-up film censor whose job day in, day out is to view the films in question, finger poised on the pause button, either suggesting cuts or recommending that they are banned outright. While her fellow censors are jocular and laconic she is professional and fastidious. Director Bailey-Bond mines deadpan laughs in Enid’s dispassionate description of the lurid material.
When she is given a horror film ‘Don’t Go in the Church’ to grade, Enid is alarmed that the events unspooling before her seem to mirror her own traumatic memories of a tragic family incident. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she tracks down Doug Smart (Smiley), the creepily ingratiating and lecherous producer/director. As her investigation continues Enid’s mind begins to unravel.
The evocation of the 80s, all fag smoke fug, casual racism and political turmoil is claustrophobically evocative, while Mark Town’s jittery editing and Tim Harrison’s unnerving sound design add to the sense of dread. The picture veers into out-and-out pastiche at times and becomes less interesting as it leans away from sociological satire into more trad horror tropes, meaning it ultimately feels slightly less than its immaculately realised parts, but Algar’s fearless performance keeps the story anchored in Enid’s skewed reality.
Censor is released on 20th August
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