Censor is a disturbing, beautifully shot British horror film that takes us back to the mid-1980s, the era of “video nasties.” It debuted at the 2021 Sundance Festival, and following its theatrical release on June 11, it will be available to watch on demand.
Censor is a story told through the lens of a young woman named Enid, who is a video censor tasked with watching violent, bloody films on video tape, and recommending cuts to them. For example, in the opening scene, she and her co-worker discuss whether or not eye gouging or tying intestines in knots should pass inspection, or if the film should be rejected altogether.
We as the viewers are subjected to seeing some of the graphic and extremely violent scenes Enid is watching, and here is where I give a trigger warning to those of you who, like myself, are incapable of watching eye trauma onscreen. I can watch a lot of gory sequences without flinching, but when the human eye is poked or prodded, I have to cover my own.
We are given a glimpse into the trauma in Enid’s past when she meets her parents for dinner, and they gently inform her that they are finally declaring her sister Nina, who disappeared as a young child, dead. Enid is upset by this, and we are gradually clued in that she was with Nina on the day she vanished.
As if this news, along with her stressful job are not enough problems to bear, Enid and a co-worker are blamed when a film they passed is held responsible for causing a man to commit murder. This is a lot of pressure on a woman who seems to be a workaholic, and it’s pretty clear that Enid is teetering on the edge of a breakdown.
A sleazy film producer named Doug requests that she review his film Don’t Go In the Church, which was directed by Frederick North. Enid finds that the opening scene brings back memories of the day her sister disappeared, and she tracks down another banned film by North. She becomes obsessed, convinced that the lead actress in this film is her sister Nina.
In the interest of abstaining from spoilers, I don’t want to give away any other plot points, but suffice it to say that most of this movie made me question whether Enid was really onto something, or if she was losing her mind.
I will say that the final ten minutes of Censor, while tense and chill-inducing, conclude with one of those “what the heck just happened” endings.
I know that many members of the horror community will be really upset about it. I was frustrated at first, and my friends and I left the theater stating that we really needed to think about it for a while before we made up our minds as to how we felt about Censor as a whole.
It was a lot to unpack, but I have to say that this film has been on my mind all day, which means that it definitely made an impact. The acting performances are uniformly good, but Niamh Algar is outstanding as Enid. Even when she appears to be stark raving mad, you sympathize for Enid, and every reaction, every facial expression was authentic. She pulled me into the story 100%.
The look of Censor is fantastic, with the final third looking much like the films Enid and her co-workers watch on the daily. And the gore scenes are very well-done, appearing to be practical effects rather than CGI (always a plus in my book).
If you can handle an ending that isn’t tied up neatly, check out Censor. It’s a dark, unsettling, well-acted and well-portrayed story with some intense jump scares.
Are you a fan of films with frustrating endings, or do they leave you cold? Let us know all about it in the comments section.