Review: Censor

Written and directed by Prano Bailey-Bond and co-written by Anthony Fletcher, after viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality. Starring: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, Clare Holman, Andrew Havill, Danny Lee Wynter, Clare Perkins and Felicity Montagu.

One of the fantastic things about horror is that it’s a genre which can blend with any other and be whatever it wants to be, in this case it’s mixed with mystery and thriller. Prano Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher use an unusual combination of violence and gore with a slow, thoughtful and atmospheric story. It moves in a purposeful way, cleverly opening different avenues to the story that leave you unsure whether they’re clues or not. It avoids the classic over-foreshadowing to not give away too much but at the same time, it ultimately could have given away more, and may leave you fairly unsatisfied. It’s a story that does ask you to be somewhat patient and at times to bear with some questionable choices. It’s a difficult one to pin down, it may be that it requires a second watch to really delve into everything it throws at you in its big finale but as it stands it could simply leave you slightly puzzled.

However, the direction is extremely consistent throughout, starting off with its 80s setting, it immediately adds an air of suspicion. The drab colours of the clothing mixed with the mundane setting of the office, really push that sense of sadness, regret and melancholy, to really let the violence and suspense burst through. Bailey-Bond’s direction has a dreamlike quality, or even as though you’re watching a film within a film, it moves in such a pensive way, reflecting Enid’s (Algar) sense of being lost and forever searching for answers. It brings through a great use of colour, as well as blending itself with its VHS subject, to really immerse its audience in the atmosphere it builds.

Niamh Algar was a fantastic choice for this role, there’s an immediate presence to her that’s mysterious or intriguing. She holds a persona that feels unpredictable, even in her very strictly professional setting, she easily gets across that there’s something beneath the surface, a strength, a violence or a darkness. When the film’s story asks you to be patient, it works because of Algar’s performance. It almost seems as if you can’t have a British horror film without Michael Smiley, he’s a staple of the genre and reliably brilliant at making you very sure you should not trust whichever character he’s inhabiting. Danny Lee Wynter is a lovely addition, it’s a relatively brief performance but it’s one of the few where Enid gets to make a more genuine connection with someone and Wynter works very well alongside Algar, they have a sweet chemistry. Similarly with Clare Perkins, it’s nice to see a lighter side to Enid to balance out her dark past and murky future.

Censor is a well-directed, unique piece of British cinema but it may leave you with a few too many questions. The majority of the work is extremely strong but the big final punch or reveal that you’re waiting for in its finale, doesn’t entirely appear. Niamh Algar is wonderful as Enid, it’s a strange, intriguing and fairly emotionally complex role, which are qualities that she brings to the table easily. It’s a great thing to see filmmakers taking risks and adding to the new generation of British horror but it feels as though this one went down an overly messy path in the end, one that it couldn’t quite come back from.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Out now on Digital

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