Just like some modern horror masters such as Ari Aster and Robert Eggers have achieved in their works, Prano Bailey-Bond’s delirious debut feature “Censor” is one of the horror films that will stay under your skin and make you realize how horror films can awaken your personal trauma.
Inspired by Bailey-Bond’s previous short film “Nasty,” “Censor” focuses on a young British woman Enid (Niamh Algar, “Raised by Wolves” and “Wrath of Man”) in the mid-80s. It’s Thatcher’s Britain, and Enid works as a censor of “nasties” – horror movies with extreme sexual and violent content. This is a woman who definitely not views horror films the same way as the public does: she takes notes, rewinds the tapes again and again, and cuts the nasty scenes out of the movies.
Gradually, her job swallows her up, and one particular film she’s censoring switches on her traumatic past as her mind starts to blend reality and fiction together. The film is called “Don’t Go in the Church,” directed by a veteran slasher movie director Frederick North (Adrian Schiller) and distributed by producer Doug Smart (Michael Smiley), in which the opening scene shows two girls walk through the woods and enter a cabin, then one of the girls is murdered. Watching this scene triggers Enid’s memory of her sister Nina who went into the woods and missing 20 years ago. Her body was never found, and Enid can barely remember what really happened. Her parents have decided to move on and declared Nina’s legally dead recently.
Deeply convinced that the film re-creates her sister’s mysterious missing, Enid discovers a female actress (Sophia La Porta) in North’s previous film looks just like her sister. At the same time, Enid is blamed by the press and public for approving a nasty which inspired a killer’s gory act of crime. The stress pushes Enid to go on a “missionary rescue” of her missing sister, and, as you probably already expected, everything starts to go wrong.
After a David-Lynch-style crazy third act with body horror and a very good ending sequence, you’ll be impressed by Algar’s powerful performance in which she reveals a cold, isolated woman’s guilt and fear lie under the surface. And Bailey-Bond’s fascinating direction let “Censor” become an exciting, visually stunning debut which leads us to hop on a shocking and dazzling ride. It’s a horror film about horror films, the genre that forces us to confront our deepest fear and change how we see reality.
However, it’s a little shame that Bailey-Bond could step more further and fully bring out the potential of her materials. Enid’s job is an interesting, unique character that very rare to be seen in films, and the relationship between censorship and the public definitely has more territory to explore. Nowadays in most countries, censorship is no longer the same as Enid’s times, but films keep showing male’s abusive onscreen violence against female, the “tradition” that treats victims, particularly women, as objects. Turns out, horror films are not only about personal but also about collective trauma.
- Distributor: Magnet Releasing and Magnolia Pictures
- Production: Silver Salt Films and Timpson Films
- Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
- Writer: Prano Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher
- Producer: Helen Sara Jones
- Cast: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Sophia La Porta, and Adrian Schiller
- “Censor” premiered at 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Read the review in Chinese