Movie Review: ‘Censor’

With an important message and an impressive star, Censor is not a film to be missed.

Censor is the 1980s-set film you didn’t know you needed. The era is only recognizable by a Margaret Thatcher televised speech in the background and the fact that the film is set during the “video nasties” craze. No neon, no big hair, no synthesizers.

Enid is a British film censor in the 1980s “video nasties” era of film. “I do it to protect people,” she states simply. She takes her job seriously, possibly because when she was a child, she and her younger sister, Nina, were playing out in the woods when a strange man lured Nina into a cabin. Enid never saw her sister again, and the trauma is deeply embedded in her. She believes wholeheartedly that her sister is still alive, that she will find her and relieve her guilty conscious. Her parents, however, have had Nina declared dead so that they can move on.

Things shift for Enid when she watches a film called “Don’t Go In the Church,” a horror film that imitates the disappearance of her sister. Enid is deeply troubled by this, and goes looking for other films by the same director. She isn’t sure what exactly she is looking for, until she finds a (banned) film called “Asunder.” She is certain that the female star, Alice, is her sister, all grown up and brainwashed. Enid is obsessed with finding this filmmaker and this actress, and righting her past. 

I loved Censor. I truly did. From the haunting, minimal score to the low-key 1980s setting, this is a surprisingly solemn film that isn’t boring. This isn’t a wild, crazy film; but neither is it a “slow burn.” It was perfectly paced.

The solemnity stems from the central point this story is making: violence doesn’t come from watching raucous, gory films. In this case, it comes from trauma. It is suggested that Enid never properly dealt with the trauma of losing her sister. Decades later, she still feels guilt about the event. Rather than telling her she isn’t at fault, Enid’s parents prefer not to talk about it—a British stereotype if I ever heard one. Director Prano Bailey-Bond doesn’t hit you over the head with this story point. She lets it play out. There is no “studio note” that has a character specify this point.

The solemnity of the film also doesn’t mean that there isn’t any gore. There is, and not just from the films that Enid is censoring. But the gore and violence is well-placed. There is purpose to it. It sticks out in my mind.

Niamh Algar absolutely shines in her role as Enid, the titular censor. A character whose sole job it is to cut the beautiful, gore-drenched scenes from our beloved horror movies should be a villain. Algar brings a certain honest vulnerability to the role that makes it impossible to hate her character.

With an important message and an impressive star, Censor is not a film to be missed. This is an early contender for my favorite film of the year.

Censor hits theaters June 11 and is available on demand on June 18th

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