Sundance Review: CENSOR

We are in the midst of the Sundance Film Festival! What an exciting time to be alive!

I’ve attended 6 Sundance films so far and they’ve all been their own brand of delightful. My first #LadyHorror was the late-night premiere of CENSOR, directed by Welsh filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond and co-written by Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher.

CENSOR is set during the 1985 “video nasty” hysteria, when people blamed the violent imagery of graphic horror films for social ills. The film follows Enid (Niamh Algar), a young censor whose job is to rate films for their content, trim out offensive bits, and sometimes ban films altogether. Enid takes her job seriously, believing she’s protecting the public. One day one of the films triggers a memory of her sister, who went missing in the woods when they were small children. Enid remembers little from the event, but becomes convinced the director of the film knows the truth. She believes the actress in the film may actually be her kidnapped sister, and sets out to confront the filmmakers.

This film is a stylish homage to 80s horror. There’s a lovely aesthetic interplay between the drab naturalism of Enid’s life and the lurid violence in the films she watches. CENSOR ramps up the anxiety as the world of the “nasties” start to infiltrate Enid’s real life, and creates a tension between reality, the screen, and Enid’s flawed memory. In the end CENSOR didn’t deliver as much of an 80s gore-fest as I hoped for – it’s surprisingly restrained when it comes to actual blood-spurting violence. Still, there are a few excellent bits of viscera, and the film also manages to ask some interesting questions: What’s the relationship between media and human behavior? How do we infuse our own trauma/selves into the media we consume? Can censorship protect us from horrible events? Or does it merely protect us from being reminded that these events happen regardless?

This is an incredibly strong first film by a director I’m excited to watch. While it’s no longer available to view at Sundance, I feel sure it will find a home at more festivals in the future, and hopefully find its way to a wider release. In the meantime, updates about CENSOR will likely appear here.

What’s your favorite “Video Nasty?” How much eye-gouging is TOO much? Is there any such thing?

Published by Brandy N. Carie

Playwright. Director. Producer. Dramaturg. I like coffee and Whisky and dogs and talking in person.

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