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film review

Censor focuses on government censor Enid (Niamh Algar), who falls down a rabbit hole of paranoia after watching a horror movie that echoes a deadly incident from her own past.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

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  • Censor
  • Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond
  • Written by Prano Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher
  • Starring Niamh Algar, Adrian Schiller and Michael Smiley
  • Classification R; 84 minutes

One day, there will be a great scuzzy little film set against the backdrop of the early ’80s “video nasty” era, when the British government became convinced that low-budget horror films with titles such as Mardi Gras Massacre and Toxic Zombies were fundamentally corrupting the nation’s youth, sparking both a bureaucratic fiefdom and a robust black market. Today, though, is not that day.

Oh well. With her feature-length directorial debut Censor, Prano Bailey-Bond at least proves that she is great at high-concept conceits. The new film focuses on government censor Enid (Niamh Algar), who falls down a rabbit hole of paranoia and post-traumatic stress after watching a horror movie that bizarrely echoes a deadly incident from her own past. Is it a sick coincidence, or something more supernaturally sinister?

Censor leads to a climax that is nasty for all the wrong reasons.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

A cross between David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Marisha Pessl’s novel Night Film – with more than a dash of Peter Strickland and Ben Wheatley thrown in for good measure – Censor attempts to both mine the hazily nostalgic memories of cheap thrills and turn the mental screws when it comes to unreliable narrators who can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy.

But while that all sounds compelling enough, it’s the execution that Bailey-Bond has trouble with. The filmmaker assumes that aping the cheap aesthetics of the era are enough to establish style, and that making Enid a mystery amounts to layered characterization.

It all leads to a climax that is nasty for all the wrong reasons.

Censor is available across digital and on-demand platforms, including Apple TV/iTunes and Google Play, starting June 18

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.