Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
Actor(s): Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Horror
Runtime: 1 hour 24 minutes
Atmospheric, visually striking, and unapologetically weird, Censor is a subversive delight with a star-making performance by Niamh Algar as the lead character. Enid (Algar) is a quiet, repressed woman who lives a solitary life and works as a censor of ‘video nasties.’ This is set in the 1980’s and people are fired up by the content of these profane and violent horror films, cutting footage or outright refusing to let them be released.
Enid is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her younger sister years before, and one day she views a film that contains disturbing similarities to that event. She becomes obsessed with the film and its director holding the key to her sister’s whereabouts, but it soon becomes clear that Enid might not be quite as sane as she pretends to be. Reality blurs as she goes on a violent and possibly doomed mission to find and save her sister.
This isn’t really a ‘scary’ movie in the traditional sense. It definitely has a ‘psychological horror’/’art horror’ feel and if you like movies that feel like you’re watching a nightmare or someone’s hallucination, you’ll like this. There’s obviously a lot of care put into it and there are lots of little things you notice throughout that enhance the overall experience of watching it.
You’d expect Enid’s character to be off-putting or outright unlikable, but I found her to be a surprisingly sympathetic protagonist. I don’t believe in censorship, but I also understood how Enid and her co-workers felt about some of these films, especially their focus on rape and violence towards women. I liked how even though this film itself is a violent horror film it still seemed sensitive towards Enid’s point of view.
I halfway expected a typical ‘repressed uptight woman loses her mind’ type of arc but it turned out to be more than that, paying legitimate consideration to Enid and her increasingly fragile mental state. There’s a lot that goes unsaid in Niamh Algar’s performance, and the subtlety of the portrayal makes her descent into madness even more disturbing.
This movie is somewhat confusing at times, and it might not be a lot of peoples’ cups of tea, but I loved how it was so unlike anything I had ever seen before. The aesthetic is kind of crazy but sort of works, with its combination of gritty urban realism and rich, over-the-top saturated colors for some of the more surrealistic scenes.
One of my favorite British character actors, Michael Smiley, also makes an appearance here but it’s still very much Enid’s film. She really has no one who’s there for her and her desire to bring her family back together is as well-intentioned as it is painfully misguided and tragic.