Censor Review – a brilliantly adventurous first horror film | Horror films
This exciting and dizzying debut by Welsh writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond is a nostalgic treat for anyone old enough to remember the infamous fear of ‘mean videos’ of the early’ 80s. Yet beneath the retro surface lurks a more universal story about the power of horror to confront our deepest fears – a timeless celebration of the liberating nature of the dark side. Endowed with a keen eye for period detail (horror maven Kim Newman gets executive producer credit) and a refreshing, irreverent attitude to the “facts” of nerdy fanboys. Censor evokes a serpentine story of trauma, repression and liberation, all conveyed by the deliciously tactile medium of illicit videotapes and pre-Internet media panics.
Niamh Algar, who turned out so fascinating in Quiet with the horses, is Enid, a movie censor who spends her days watching, cutting and categorizing scenes of mid-1980s violence in Britain. It is a difficult time, with the press and the public eager to find a scapegoat for the nation’s many ills. Yet, while shocked by much of what she sees on tape, Enid is also strangely drawn to some of the more Horror titles, especially the work of cult director Frederick North (Adrian Schiller), whose creepy and frightening films seem to offer answers to long-buried questions. As Enid’s macabre fascination grows, fiction and reality intermingle.
Censor has its roots in the 2015 Bailey-Bond short Bad, in which a young boy in search of his father finds a family connection through the horror video portal. Although the accounts of Bad and Censor are very different, both involve a character who longs for a lost loved one, being drawn into the world of villains – literally. Humorously reversing clichés about the ill effects of horror, Bailey-Bond summons and, more importantly, embraces the specter of a modern folk devil, his protagonists finding solace in the Eye of the Storm in a way that will strike a chord with horror fans. all over.
There are echoes of Atom Egoyan Adjuster in Censorthe depiction of the fetishized rituals of film classification, with Enid trapped in the hallways and the warren-shaped shrines of his profession, surrounded by the muffled sounds of torture and sin. Kudos to production designer Paulina Rzeszowska, who gets the oddly seedy atmosphere of the censors’ offices; and sound designer Tim Harrison, who used animation from 1978 Ship down – a traumatic mix of grief and horror – for spatial inspiration. In contrast, the progression from a bleak reality to a more outlandish fantasy sees Censor to the visual metaphors of David Cronenberg Videodrome as Enid is engulfed by North’s latest garish production.
It is to Algar’s credit that she breathes such an empathetic life into a character built on reservoirs of repression and denial. From the first nervous scenes in which revulsion and fascination fought a close battle on his face, to the subsequent descents in a fantastic, thoroughbred combat mode, Algar judges the emotional temperature of each phase of Enid’s journey with pinpoint accuracy. . Michael Smiley, meanwhile, plays the smarmy producer of North Doug Smart as a symphony of long vowels and condescending threats; and Guillaume Delaunay is terribly imposing as a near-mythical Beastman (a character inspired by the iconic presence of Michael Berryman in the Wes Craven film The hills Have Eyes), which embodies the dichotomous mix of fear and sympathy that is at the heart of so much horror fiction.
A haunting sound score by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (who has done intimate wonders on Only you) blends in with Annika Summerson’s 35mm tactile cinematography to evoke the spongy vibe of the era, while powerful use is made of Blanck Mass Chernobyl’s spiral track – already heard in Ben Wheatley’s A field in England. It all adds up to a brilliantly adventurous feature debut from a burgeoning filmmaker, who joins Jennifer Kent, Julia Ducournau, Natalie Erika James, Rose Glass et al in proving that the future of the avant-garde the horror is fearless, direct and feminine.