The new horror movie Censor goes all-in on Video Nastys. In the early 1980s, there was a spate of uncensored low-budget horror and exploitation films distributed on video cassette. Since these films were not released theatrically, they were able to get around the movie rating laws through a loophole. The phrase “Video Nasty” originated around this time from the National Viewers ‘and Listeners’ Association and became the popular term for these very gory and raunchy videos. The biggest concern was that the films were responsible for an increase in crime and violence at the time. Such films hit with that label include both iconic and cult films such as The evil death, Basket case and The thing.
The history behind the Video Nasty is frankly an interesting topic to delve into in its own right. But it also makes the Video Nasty a brilliant backdrop for a psychological horror story, in which Prano Bailey-Bond’s directorial debut, Censor, eager to deliver.
Censor tells the story of Enid (played by Niamh Algar), a film censor who takes pride in her work. She seems used to exposing herself to the most gory and disgusting images on a daily basis. But when a mysterious tape begins to unlock hidden memories from her past, she’s determined to find the answers to questions that have been left untouched for years. Enid sets out to find and investigate the filmmaker of this tape, but as she goes, fiction and reality begin to merge in the most gruesome of ways.
Prano has stated in an interview for Golden derby that it was her love for Video Nasties as a child that laid the foundation Censor. “I am a huge fan of films from that era. I grew up obsessed with the Evil Dead, that was one of the movies that was problematic here in the UK at the time. She added, “The first idea I had was what if a censor started to believe that these movies were affecting them. If they really believed in censorship, what would happen if a censor believed so much that they thought it would affect their own brains? ‘
From the trailer alone, this seems like a promising ride through our main character’s mind. Flashes of bright red video dishes contrast beautifully with the dark and gloomy recordings in (what seems) reality. Prano has stated that too Censor was shot at 35mm to remain as authentic as possible for movies shot in the 80s.
“Usually when we watch horror, it’s a safe place for us to be afraid because we know it’s not real.” Prano said during an interview with IMDB. “And in that sense, I think horror can be quite cathartic.”
Censor had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, with plans for release in theaters on June 11 and on-demand on June 18. Since its Sundance review it has already garnered some very promising reviews, currently it has a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. While this is Prano Baily-Bond’s first full-length directing credit, she is also credited with co-writing the film with Anthony Fletcher.