Film review: ’Censor’ explores the dynamics of horror films

It also tracks the emotional instability of the titular censor


It’s unlikely that “Censor,” which is playing at the Alamo South, will find a large audience. Having premiered at the virtual Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, “Censor” is a modest production but turns out to be meta commentary on censorship and films.

Niamh Algar plays the titular censor, Enid, who spends her days in the 1980s looking at what were known as video nasties, the exploitation horror moves that had a mini-boom in during the 1980s heyday of VHS.

Writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond wisely uses different aspect ratios throughout the film to bring back the VHS feel, and she mostly succeeds.

She also makes the most of Enid’s tightly wound aura as she looks at eyes being gouged out on video while primly dressed, with a pursed mouth.

It turns out, however, that Enid is not really emotionally suited for the soul-sucking job. When she was a child, her sister disappeared, and her parents have decided many years later to have that sister pronounced dead. This distresses Enid and brings back memories that she wishes to forget. In addition, Enid lets through a gory scene that leads to a copycat crime, bringing much unwanted attention to herself.

Then there’s a new movie from a famed gory director called Frederick North (Adrian Schiller), and it seems to refer to the circumstances of Enid’s sister’s disappearance, or at least Enid thinks so.

All of this leads to Enid’s increasing instability, as well as a reflection upon exploitation and those who make the films, as well as those who try to censor them.

In this regard, the director succeeds. She also works with cinematographer Annika Summerson to highly horror aesthetics, sometimes using TV static to mimic the sound of video nasties.

It’s an interesting film for those who are steeped in horror. Others might look for something more upbeat after more than a year of huddling in our homes during the pandemic.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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