Video nasties and censorship are tackled head on in the sinister Sundance hit. Jacob Stolworthy speaks to its star Niamh Algar and director-co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond about the process from inception to fruition
Sundance Film Festival’s Midnight section has long been the holy grail for any burgeoning horror director. It’s where The Blair Witch Project (1999) kick-started the found-footage phenomenon; where Saw (2004) launched one of the most successful franchises in history; and, more recently, where It Follows (2014) and Hereditary (2018) were first unleashed, reinvigorating modern horror. Censor, which received its world premiere at this year’s virtual Sundance on Saturday (30 January), is a worthy addition to that list. In fact, it is one of the best horror films in years.
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, Censor tells the story of Enid (Niamh Algar), a young woman who makes a living tucked away in dingy screening rooms, watching depraved and gory films. In her notepad, she scribbles down the timings of the cuts she thinks need to be made before they’re viewed by the public.
For Enid, this fastidiousness doesn’t stem from a love of film but a sense of duty. During a tense dinner with her parents, she rebukes her father for suggesting otherwise. “It’s not entertainment,” she snaps. ”I do it to protect people.”
Like any psychological film worth its salt, nothing’s as it seems. The arrival of video nasty supremo Frederick North’s new film (creepily titled Don’t Go in the Church) sends Enid spiralling. Before long, she’s on a mission to find a sister who went missing years before. It’s here where the film kicks into gear leading to one of the most memorable climaxes for quite some time.