Wednesday, June 1, 2022

#2,762. Censor (2021) - 2021 Horror Movies


Almost 40 years after the fact, the UK’s Video Nasties campaign of the ‘80s, when specific movies on video were singled out and even prohibited for their violent content, still doesn’t sit well with horror fans. That’s because the genre was the movement’s primary target; with moral crusaders like Mary Whitehouse leading the way, titles such as Blood Feast, The Evil Dead, and Zombie were deemed far too gory for home consumption, and any video rental store offering said films opened themselves up to prosecution.

Acting as watchdogs, the censors working for the BBFC (British Board of Classification) decided whether or not a film could be made available to the public. Some movies were passed with cuts, others were deemed unacceptable and banned. Set during the height of the Video Nasties craze, Censor stars Niahm Algar as Enid, one of several censors working for the BBFC. Enid takes her job very seriously, and is determined to prevent violent horror films such as Nightmare and I Spit on Your Grave from falling into the hands of the nation’s impressionable youth.

But Enid has a secret from her past that continues to haunt her; years earlier, her younger sister Nina (played in flashbacks by Amelie Child Villiers) disappeared without a trace, and Enid believes she was personally responsible for this tragedy (the two sisters were playing together when Nina vanished).

Enid’s already fragile mental state takes a turn for the worse when she reviews the newest horror movie from producer Doug Smart (Michael Smiley). Not only does it feature a sequence that seems to mirror Nina’s disappearance, but it also stars an actress named Alice Lee (Sophia La Porta), who Enid believes might actually be her long-lost sister!

One of the strengths of writer / director Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor is that it doesn’t vilify the BBFC or its employees, treating them instead as ordinary men and women hired to do what many at the time believed was an important job. There are several scenes in which Enid and her co-workers preview violent movies, and we see the process by which the board makes their decisions. At one point, Enid and fellow censor Sanderson (Nicholas Burns) even get into some hot water for passing the 1974 horror film Deranged; an accused killer supposedly mimicked one of that movie’s grislier scenes. Enid even receives threatening calls from angry citizens, and is hounded by the press, who want to know why she passed such an obviously violent picture.

But while director Bailey-Bond and her co-writer Anthony Fletcher may have stopped short of disparaging the BBFC and the role they played during the Video Nasties era, the two also go to great lengths to prove that real-life violence is caused not by movies, but a sickness of the mind. Played superbly by Niahm Algar, Enid is a tortured soul, a woman who cannot shake the trauma of her past. While the rest of her family has moved on from Nina’s disappearance, Enid cannot, and the never-ending search for her beloved sister will take her down some very dark paths.

The last half-hour of Censor, when Enid is frantically searching for Alice Lee, features violence and bloodshed that is often quite shocking, with a final scene that you will not soon forget. It’s ironic, in a way; had Censor been made in the ‘80s, it would likely have been classified by the BBFC as a Video Nasty!

Which, I suppose, is kind of the point.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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