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Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond


Review by Sampira Al-Fihri 


Director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond’s psychological horror film Censor plunges us into realms of restriction and suffocating restraint. Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) works for the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and is nicknamed ‘Little Miss Perfect’ by her colleagues. Enid is obsessed with the violent content being banned or cut, but as the story unfolds we learn of her sister’s disappearance. Bailey-Bond plays with how we can cling onto control when we feel out of control. Censor takes us through the complexities of grief, censorship and those conversations on the influence of culture that can become far too binary to effect any progress or meaningful discourse. 

When a man murders his wife and a newspaper links the killings to a film Enid previously rated and approved, we see the ramifications of gatekeeping culture, the decisions to be made, and the real-life consequences. Bailey-Bond creates and intensifies the fascinating power-play of Enid being both in control and completely vulnerable to her surroundings. The film’s tendency to convince us we’re going down one route and then pushing us down a completely different one shows masterly scripting and directing by Bailey-Bond and the script’s co-writer, Anthony Fletcher. 

Censor takes us to a place that feels both disorientating and comfortable, a weird mesh of interrogation and self-questioning. Are we really that influenced by culture? How often are we vulnerable to violence? How much does violence play a part in our everyday lives? Through examining Enid and her quest for the truth of her sister’s disappearance, we begin to examine ourselves. It’s a film lovingly rooted in character, which would appeal to even the most staunch horror non-fan, but also speaks to the ongoing reality of violence against women.  

One thing that jumps out immediately is the gorgeous soundscape, put together from what sounds like purely analogue and natural sounds, including chants, breaths and other mundane noises of our lives, giving an atmospheric quality that renders us slightly uneasy by its familiarity. The inclusion of historically banned footage and the visually stunning merging of Enid’s reality with her sister’s, opening gaps between the afterlife and the world of the living, giving us nowhere to hide. The colour, lighting and gorgeous composition make us question whether we want to hide at all. You can’t help but be hooked into the chaos and conflict.  

At its core, Censor is a character study in the many selves we portray. Our professional self. Our personal self. Our romantic self. Our tormented self. The self we never show. Enid is in deep conflict with her shadow self and must wade into the darkness to come up for air on the other side. The backdrop of a time deliberately forgotten or suppressed in British film history – the era of the ‘video nasty’, of Thatcherite moral panic and state control – is a wonderful choice by a director that takes us by the hand and pushes us down a lonely corridor, so that we, too, may meet ourselves in a new light. 

Photo courtesy of Vertigo Releasing