Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
One of Variety’s Top Ten Directors to Watch, Prano Bailey-Bond, makes her feature debut with Censor. It takes place in the ’80s when the world was in a frenzy over violence in films, particularly Video Nasties. It follows Film Censor Enid (Niamh Algar) who’s assigned to review a disturbing video from the archive that draws parallels to a traumatic event from her childhood.
Bailey-Bond pays homage to the Video Nasty era with mentions to films, such as I Spit on Your Grave, that was causing the hysteria at the time. Throughout the narrative, Enid watches horrific acts of violence and makes decisions of what to cut. These disturbing films don’t always show the gruesome acts, but their horror is heard and witnessed through the eyes of Enid. Bailey-Bond uses aspect-ratio and the grainy, jumpy VHS tape aesthetics of the 1980s. This gives an authentic feel that aids the story, particularly near the end.
Algar is brilliant as the quiet Enid, who becomes possessed in her quest. In the beginning, Enid is nearly devoid of emotion as she watches the video nasties. That is until the Film comes along that ignites the memory of her traumatic event. As the story progresses, we watch Enid begin transforming. Her long-buried guilt over the disappearance of her sister floats to the surface, and she grasps to believe the lie she’s told herself. Algar is mesmerizing throughout, but most notably towards the end. She completely unravels in Enid’s desperation for answers and switches meticulously between emotions.
Thankfully, Censor isn’t a modern-day Video Nasty. Instead, it’s a twisted love-letter to the era with a powerful story of the ties between memory, trauma and guilt. There’s also a delightful amount of gore and dark humour to be had.
Censor screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 29 at 12 AM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): January 29 at 10 AM (EST)