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  Censor Cut And Thrust
Year: 2021
Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
Stars: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, Clare Holman, Andrew Havill, Felicity Montagu, Danny Lee Wynter, Clare Perkins, Guillaume Delaunay, Richard Glover, Erin Shanagher
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) works as a film censor at the British Board of Film Classification, a job that does not ordinarily leave her open to much scrutiny as a scrutiniser herself. Yet the time is the mid-nineteen-eighties, and censorship is in the headlines like never before after the so-called Video Nasties moral panic, stoked up by self-appointed guardians in the press and pressure groups. Enid is finding this extra pressure something she does not need, especially when she is haunted by her past when she lost her sister in the woods near her home, something she desperately wants to make amends for by tracking her lost sibling...

The Video Nasties panic never really went away, it wasn't the first and it wasn't the last of these, and later the moralists would shift their attention to computer games and the internet as the focus of corrupting influences. But that eighties (and nineties - it returned with a sequel) controversy has haunted British film ever since, not that British filmmakers were really responsible for the output that was provoking the outrage, it was largely the overseas market that was infringing on the United Kingdom's entertainment, leaving the campaigners open to accusations of xenophobia. You get none of that here, it should be pointed out.

The problematic filmmakers in Censor are all British and Irish, and if you are a diehard about these matters, you will start crying foul early and throughout this. The panic was assuredly a political issue, and again you get very little of that here, while the horror and to an extent pornography debate was one of the rare instances that united conservatives and liberals who both wanted them banned, we never get so much as a hint of what Enid's politics are. Similarly, the public face of the BBFC was for over a decade James Ferman, the picture of liberalism and understanding as long as he was able to wield the scissors when things got a bit much. No such figure here.

There is a good reason for that: director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond did not appear to be interested. This was more a cross between Repulsion and Videodrome, a character study of a deteriorating mind, and while there was some social commentary in the way the normalisation of violence in entertainment could affect how safe people - and particularly women - felt in that society, mainly the stage was set for Algar to go from buttoned down and repressed to letting her hair down and going nuts with the creatives who she suspects of kidnapping her sister all those years ago. To that extent those wishing for more to get their teeth into as far as satire went would well be warned they could leave disappointed.

However, for a film that was on the surface chilly and unforgiving - towards Enid and everyone else - there were indications a sense of humour was lurking, and in fact the director was having some fun at the expense of those who take this subject as seriously as they do, no matter what side they fall. Certainly the last act, where Enid confronts the unsavoury makers of the British nasty that has become her obsession, was so over the top that you began to notice this was getting pretty ridiculous; couple that with the coda that tipped over into outright black comedy and you saw the movie finding its feet, or fulfilling its potential, albeit very late in the day. For a brief film, it was a slow, deliberately paced experience that did not look like the eighties at all, it looked like the twenty-twenties as most Brit horrors of this era did (VHS was never that clear!), but it won marks for originality and being brave enough to piss off the moralists and horror aficionados alike. Whether that was wholly wise is another matter. Music by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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