Awwww, the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, a time where behind every nook, cranny and corner of the world there was black robed Devil worshipers who would rape, impregnate you and than kill your baby for Old Scratch in front of you. On both sides of the pond this was a new witch hunt hysteria, but the US at least had a bit of a shield in the first amendment. While certain stores and rental places here in the US got raided, they were normally raided in rural areas and Bible Belt type cities, there was no national censors (though Tipper and her gals tried) to edit out sex and violence in movies on a nation wide level. In jolly ole’ Britain it was another story, in England, first amendment rights were and are very flimsy, this led in the early 1980’s to the “Video Nasty” crack down where films like “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Evil Dead” were censored or outright banned. People who had uncut videos or banned videos had their businesses and lives destroyed, over a fucking video. This the period that “Censor” takes place in and follows a school librarian marm type, Enid (played by Niahm Algar) as she puts the hammer down on gore, violence and sex in the movies to keep Britain safe from moral rot, however she has a dark past herself.
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond off her short film, “Censor” blurs the line between reality and dark fantasy, a lot like “Bavarian Sound Machine” and “Saint Maude”. Enid is playing with her sister, Nina and the sister disappears, she doesn’t remember what happened and her parents seem to blame her for her sister’s disappearance, while watching a movie “Don’t Go in the Church” by director Fredrick North she sees a woman who looks like a grown version of her sister, she goes to find out more about the director and the actress. Things get worse when Enid feels guilty for letting slip a movie where a man eats the face of his victim and in real life a man murders his family and eats the face of his wife, the media and public blame Enid which sends her further into a mental downward spiral. The movie is a bit slow as it builds but soon you realize that Enid’s reality is falling apart, this movie will confuse a lot of people and there is a lot of people out there who hated the ambiguous plot and ending, but those people don’t get it and I am not gonna spoil it for you.
Suffice it to say, while “Censor” on the surface deals with censorship and the free speech issues and all that it entails, it also goes deeper in how we censor our own memories and feelings to survive in reality. The human mind is very suspect when we remember things and memory is very faulty, we “edit” or “cut out” stuff distressing, traumatic or bad in our pasts. This movie deals with that and how when it is taken to an extreme degree it can be dangerous to the individual and the people who surround them.
There is parts where the violence and other situations are over the top and where you start to wonder where fantasy is bleeding over into reality, this is pretty much a character study of Enid. A woman who “censors” and puts in “new scenes” in her own memories. Sometimes it seems this movie agrees with the censorship, some of the scenes where the violence happens seem to be taken from the very “Video Nasties” Enid is censoring and they seem to be influencing her perception of reality, something the moral guardians here in America and Britain of the right and left were claiming about sexually explicit and violent content. Of course it was probably dark satire and parody of that point of view.
It also goes into “Videodrome” territory, something the director admits influenced her. If your one of these people who hates movies that make you think and don’t like clear cut endings than avoid this movie. You won’t have good time watching it, if you don’t mind putting on your thinking cap and experiencing something this movie is for you. I enjoyed it and I will never ever get sick of the 1980’s flash back movies, I read laments, bitches and criticisms of this trend, while some fuck it up badly some do good with it spectacularly, “Censor” is one of those movies.
Some of the color schemes in the movie, especially near the end are Bavaesque and show the wavering of reality in Enid’s damaged mind. I am not giving anything away but it will leave you wondering, did Enid kill her sister and mercifully forget? Did she see her sister die and mercifully forget? Did she tell her sister to “Don’t Go in the Church” and her sister did and something bad happened that she mercifully blanked out? Are her parents protecting her? Covering for her? Well watch it and make up your own mind, the clues are there and giving you my opinion would spoil it. So go watch it on Vudu, youtube, amazon prime etc. at a price, or you could find some pirates in the bay, just don’t tell them I sent you.