Censor: Film Review

Censor

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

It seemed like everybody was talking about Censor after its premiere at Sundance earlier this year so I’m glad to have finally seen it so I can understand what all the fuss is about.

The British horror film is set in England in 1985, at the height of the ‘video nasty’ scandal, in which certain movies – typically low-budget horror films – were criticised for their violent content in the press. The film follows Enid (Niamh Algar), a British censor who spends her days watching such movies and deciding what cuts need to be made before they can be released (unless they’re rejected outright). One day, she watches Don’t Go in the Church by Frederick North and it conjures up memories of her past and the day that her sister went missing in 1965, and she becomes obsessed with the notion that his leading lady Alice Lee (Sophia La Porta) is her sister.

This film starts off as a fairly normal, straightforward drama about censorship, video nasties and the suggestion that movies can influence real-life violence. I enjoyed that aspect of the movie and found it really interesting and would have happily watched a film purely about that. But then everything takes a turn as Enid slowly loses the plot and her grip on reality. She decides to seek out the director while he’s shooting a film on location in the woods and from that point onwards, it becomes a different film entirely and moves fully into horror territory.

From the reactions I’d seen, I was expecting Censor to be this crazy, trippy movie – and it finally becomes that in the final 15-20 minutes, when I started to like it less. The lines between reality and fiction and what’s the movie and what’s real life get blurred, and even though director Prano Bailey-Bond plays around with the aspect ratio, I struggled to tell the difference and felt quite confused! It leaves you scratching your head and ends on such an annoyingly ambiguous note.

I liked many elements about the movie though – I thought the screenplay was well written, there were a few moments that made me laugh and its 84-minute runtime zips along at a brisk pace. Algar was a compelling lead and she capably handled Enid’s descent into madness.

I certainly preferred the first half of Censor, even if it was more of a period drama than a horror, but I can appreciate the bold and original decisions Bailey-Bond made with the second half, which is thrilling and gripping yet confusing.

In cinemas from Friday 20th August.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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