Why do we Brits make shite horrors these days? We’re the home of Hammer Horror and Amicus and we produced so many classics back in the golden era of horror, but all we create now is pretentious shite that resembles a film student’s final year flick. This brings me neatly to Censor, a British horror film that looks like it’s made by a gaggle of hipsters, more concerned with superficial nostalgia than meaningful content. Ironically, back in the 1980s, the time this film is set, Britain was still making decent horrors like Hellraiser, Lair Of The White Worm, and Xtro, but in the 2020s, all we have is this kind of shite that harks back rather than creates new and original shit.
Censor is about a woman called Enid (played by Niamh Algar) who works as a censor during the heights of the “Video Nasty” controversy (when violent horror films were edited or outright banned to “protect” society from, err… art). Censor, despite being set not only during, but balls-deep inside this period of history, makes zero comment on the situation. I was expecting some level of comment about censoring films and moral outrage but nope, this is all about aesthetics rather than opinion. Heaving with video glitches, faux-Argento lighting, drab grey spaces, an utterly boring plot, and a pace that never excites or intrigues, this is another missed opportunity like Free Guy; a film that purports to be about something deep but is thinner than Betamax tape.
I remember thinking a few months ago, why was Censor released in the United States before the United Kingdom? It’s not like Americans know where Chorley or Brighouse is, let alone what a “Video Nasty” is, given that in the 1990’s when a lot of horror films were still banned here, I used to buy a suitcase full of VHS’s every time my family went to the States.
Censor is all about look but devoid of soul and character. It reminded me of the similarly stylised but senseless Little Joe and In The Earth. These movies seem to have been created with no storyboarding or planning at all. It looks like someone had access to a set; a factory, a forest, and in this case a concrete underpass and a patch of woods, and they’ve constructed their plot around these places with no concern for intrigue, peril, or exposition. Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond (in her feature debut) the aesthetic is arguably fine, but the fact that it was produced from a screenplay by Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher, this means the plot or the lack of one is partly her fault too.
The censorship part of the film isn’t the main part of the narrative. There’s some daft plot about a horror film director named Frederick North and his creation “Don’t Go In The Church” which reminds Enid of what may or may not have happened to her missing sister. In an 8mm kind of way (but shitter) she begins to hunt down North’s banned films as she suspects her sister is the star Alice Lee, but none of this comes together to form a coherent and entertaining plot. None of these elements ultimately matter and the insanity finale just seems like one of those “it was a dream” children’s story endings because the writers ran out of ideas. And while I’m at it, why give an actor a real axe instead of a prop, irrespective of their mental health and the character they were supposed to “kill” in the script? 🤔
Whilst on the topic of plot, Deranged was an actual 1970’s film but the “Amnesiac Killer” which this film is said to have influenced, is fiction. So why mix the real with the fake? At least pick a real-life film and an actual influence accusation, or maybe then we’d have to move to the next decade given what the BBFC and the media did to Child’s Play (after the Jamie Bulger murder) and what they tried to do with The Matrix (after the Columbine shooting) but I guess that’s for another article.
Possibly due to budget constraints, like Channel 4‘s ripper garbage Red Riding, depictions of the 1980s amount to close-ups and enclosed environments because if we pan out it’s clearly the 2020s. Once the credits rolled, I thought to myself, what was the bloody point to all of this? Why choose a very specific part of film history and not explore it? I suppose the Video Nasty furore was a stupid situation, so in that respect making a stupid film about it is kinda apt. With all the five and four stars plastered over the poster, and the 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes, I was expecting a genre-defining horror movie but nope, this is yet another case of overrating something that’s quite clearly mediocre.
Given that The Night House has an 85% score, to a potential cinema-goer, this means both these horrors are equal or Censor is better. The Night House is superior in every way; the lead’s performance, the direction, the story, it’s all vastly better. All Censor is, is some kind of nostalgia-fest all about analogue grain and aspect ratio (aspect ratio which by the way, remains 4:3 when Enid is speaking to Frederick and isn’t in his film 🙄). Censor is the kind of lacklustre trash you’d expect on a streaming service like Shudder and by the time this crap filters down to the Film Four channel, it’ll go unnoticed at 12 at night on a weekday. It won’t be mentioned alongside The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which were both banned in the UK back in the 1980s. Censor, if made back then, would be passed completely unedited and no horror fan would want to rent the fucking thing, because it’s shite.