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Cinematic Releases: Censor (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1060 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of Magnet ReleasingRemember Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio?  That surreal psychological horror film about a British sound engineer tasked wit mixing a 1970s giallo film starring Toby Jones.  Initially the film begins as an homage before midway unraveling into a kind of hyperkinetic influx psychodrama in which neither the protagonist or the viewer are sure of their senses of reality anymore.  That’s important to consider when assessing Irish newcomer Prano Bailey-Bond’s new debut horror film Censor, a film that is as much of an homage to the era of British video nasty horror movies on cassette tape as it is a sensory freakout concerning the unresolved disappearance of a young girl.  Just when you begin to think you know what it is really about, you feel the floor give way from beneath you. Enid (Niamh Algar) is a British horror film censor circa early 1980s focused on reviewing and censoring violent and gory horror films for the home video marketplace.  Having recently generated controversy for approving the film The Amnesia Killer after supposed links to copycat crimes, Enid grabs the attention of el-sleazo exploitation filmmaker Doug Smart (British character actor Michael Smiley) who asks her to take an early pre-BBFC submission look at his new project Don’t Go in the Church.  Upon watching the film, it triggers painful memories of her sister Nina who went missing when she was still a child.  As she digs further into Smart’s career history and ventures further into reviewing the film, her sense of reality starts to fracture as both she and the film descend into madness and murder.Courtesy of Magnet Releasing Like Berberian, Censor is a lovingly made tribute to a bygone era of horror cinema that’s as interested in the charm of cheaply rendered gory thrills as it is interested in the headspace between the horror fan and the hellscapes being concocted for the sake of the movie screen.  As a horror homage, it pays special attention to the appeal of rough and blurry VHS tapes as a means of communicating big screen horror to a whole new generation of fans.  For most horrorphiles, videotape was where they got their cinematic education from and Censor understands the battle between creative expression and the so-called ‘mean old censor’ preventing us from enjoying the bloodshed.  The idea of taking an uptight ultra conservative movie censor from the Margaret Thatcher era of cracking down on exploitation horror movies getting caught up in a real life horror movie herself is a novel one which doesn’t quite achieve the brilliant heights reached by Peter Strickland’s film but comes pretty close in it’s own right.  For a first time feature it is an impressive debut with some sequences which play freely with widescreen and Academy Ratio, lensed beautifully by Annika Summerson.  It also boasts a lovely 80s infused synthetic score by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, perfectly complimenting the era with which some of the greatest horror films ever made were consumed by British moviegoers in then-contemporary England.  Performances are generally good with Niamh Algar making her stereotypical movie censor seemingly withdrawn but also potentially masking a danger.  Special attention goes to the always great Michael Smiley who leaves an impression as the corrupt and twisted film director.  Mostly though the film is a one-woman show gradually building towards some kind of scream with a strong emphasis on visual style particularly when it comes to lighting with heavy reds and blues. Courtesy of Magnet Releasing Censor in the pantheon of independently produced horror released in 2021 doesn’t shine nearly as brightly as The Night, In the Earth or The Vigil.  But its heart is in the right place and fans of 80s horror as well as the distinctly British video nasties period of horror will come away with much to appreciate.  Visually it represents a confident debut by a bright young director ready to make her mark on the indie horror scene.  Though somewhat disappointing for being short on slasher thrill expectations of the genre, Censor overall is still a fun dose of slowly burnt psychological horror through the mold of being a period piece about the Video Nasties era of horror and what digesting them did or did not do to the censors tasked with watching them.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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