Review by Camden Ferrell
Many films in the horror genre revel in their disturbing content and aim to unsettle their audience through visual means. If anything can be learned from this genre, it’s the fact that visuals have the potential to frighten or traumatize. This is the metatextual basis for Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature directorial debut Censor. It can occasionally stumble over its unevenness, but this is an effective horror movie with some fantastic visuals.
Enid is a British film censor, tasked with watching movies and deciding which content is too violent or grisly for a general audience. It takes place at a time when “video nasties” were commonly released in the country while also being condemned as exploitative and overly violent by the media. However, Enid reviews a movie that bears an uncanny resemblance to her sister’s disappearance. This pulls a thread that unravels how this movie may be related to her past. This is an interesting premise that utilizes horror tropes and feels occasionally meta.
The script, written by Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher, is decent, but it still has its flaws. The movie does explore the themes of trauma and its effect on Enid, but the dialogue about her past lacks the depth it warrants. It skirts the surface of her trauma and instead prefers to explore it through other means, but it feels shallow. However, I did enjoy how to movie connected Enid’s desire to protect the public from disturbing content with her own trauma about her sister.
Niamh Algar leads the film as Enid, and she gives a strong performance that mostly carries the movie. She has a fascinating screen presence that helps elevate some of the more lackluster scenes spread throughout. She seems to adjust to the character’s environment and fits in very well. Along with this, the film does a great job of creating an engaging and immersive world that matches the time period while also feeling fresh and original.
While the film may lack in actual scares, it succeeds very well in its ambiance and eerie nature. The movie is bolstered by its consistently great visuals and cinematography that at least give the film a certain superficial quality even when it’s still trying to find its footing. It has its flaws, but the movie does succeed thanks to its originality and its unique visuals.
Censor may not always stick its landing, but it’s a fresh horror film that has a great premise and even better cinematography. It nails its aesthetic with grace, and it features a new talent to be found in writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond.
Censor is in theaters June 11 and on VOD June 18.