The new horror movie Censor is going all in on Video Nastys. In the early 1980’s, there was a surge in uncensored low budget horror and exploitation films that were distributed on video cassette. Since these movies were not released theatrically, this allowed them to bypass film classification laws via a loophole. The phrase “Video Nasty” came into being from the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association around this time and became the popular term for this very bloody and raunchy videos. The primary concern was that the films were to blame for a rise in crime and violence at the time. Such movies that were slapped with that label included both iconic and cult films such as The Evil Dead, Basket Case and The Thing.
The history behind the Video Nasty is honestly an interesting topic to delve into by itself. But it also makes the Video Nasty a genius background for a psychological horror story, which Prano Bailey-Bond’s directorial feature debut, Censor, is 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 is determined to find out the answers to questions left untouched for years. Enid sets out to find and investigate the film maker of this tape, but the further she goes fiction and reality start to come together in the most horrific ways.
Prano has stated in an interview for Gold Derby that it was her love of Video Nasties as a child that laid the groundwork for Censor. “I’m a massive fan of films from that period. I kind of grew up obsessing over the Evil Dead, which was one of the films that was problematic over here in the U.K. at that time.” She went on to add, “The first idea I had was what if a censor started to believe these films were affecting them. If they really believed in censorship then what would happen if a censor believed so much they thought it was going to affect their own brains?”
From the trailer alone, this looks like a very promising ride through the mind of our main character. Flashes of bright red video gore contrast beautifully with the darker and more somber shots in (what appears to be) reality. Prano has also stated that Censor was shot on 35mm to stay as authentic as possible to films that were shot in the 80s.
“Most of the time when we watch horror, it’s a safe space for us to be frightened because we know it’s not real.” Said Prano on an interview with IMDB. “And, in that sense, I think horror can be quite cathartic.”
Censor made its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, with plans to release in theaters on June 11th and on demand June 18th. Since its Sundance review, it’s already made some promising reviews, currently it holds an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes. While this is Prano Baily-Bond’s first feature length directing credit, she is also credited with writing the film along with Anthony Fletcher.