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HORROR

Censor | Don’t Go in the Woods

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In 1984 the ‘Video Recordings Act’ enforced that commercial VHS sold in the UK must have classification from the BBFC leading to increased horror censorship. Victim to this oppressive wave was the ‘video nasties’, a unique type of film which gained reputation for extreme gore and outrageous violence.

Stamping a strangely satirical spin on the censorship crazies of the 80s is writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature length debut Censor. A film which stalks the story of an isolated film censor named Enid (Niamh Algar) who has her childhood trauma brought to life in the form of a ‘video nasty’. The name of the nasty, ‘Don’t Go in the Church’, an appropriately unnerving flick which hooks Enid’s attention due to its uncanny similarity to a childhood event.

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What follows is a slowly surreal drama that occasionally dips its bloody toes into Lynchian landscapes while keeping firmly rooted to its topic. Photographed by Annika Summerson (Mowgul Mowgli) the darkly lit external setting of damp offices makes everything in the fuzzy TV screen all the more enticing and fascinating. The contrast between the bright light of the scratchy VHS setting and the dulled tone of the British exterior heightens the oppressive status of video censors and the trauma that is restricting Enid’s life from colour and expression.

Perhaps for certain audience members none of this will feel quite as cathartic as the film was willing it to be. Despite a deliciously dream-like ending – the rest is quite emotionally stunted. There were moments in which the commentary on culture and VHS-related nightmares overtook the cinematic story that fronted it. Most likely, this will excite some and frustrate others.

Harnessing the obsessive fixation of the central protagonist is the excellent Niamh Algar. Opposing the political and parental mobs of anti-exploitative material, Enid’s infatuations and intrigues are with the films she’s employed to censor. With apt contextual backing for her descent into a killer craze – the protagonist is neither sympathetic or unfeeling. She is a stern in-between who doesn’t exude the blood of body horror, rather the haunting shivers of guilt and the ice-cold sting of trauma.

Despite the questionable acting of the VHS horrors to which her character is ruthlessly editing, Algar is believable and grounded throughout. Echoing Morfydd Clark’s role in Saint Maud (2020), Algar is an anchor for the film, convincingly reanimating the distress and trauma caused by the repressed memories of Enid’s childhood.

Enid (Niamh Algar) taking a late night, blood soaked stroll through her memories

Appropriately British and appropriately gloomy, Bailey-Bond resists any temptation to jump into 80s nostalgia. This is a grim depiction of trauma wrapped around the intrigue of British censorship and authoritarian editing. For those who remember the parental hysteria of VHS gore, there are segments of Censor which will recapture the Zombies, Werewolves and Yetis of yesteryear. Ironically, it may lack the twisted oomph required for those who have instead been raised on the ooze of big screen blood and the modern embrace of cinematic horror.

Aspects of Censor feel well-intended, with backdrops of Thatcher-era Britain providing the appropriate subtext for the screenplay. But the subtext only deepened the background commentary while the foreground and central story lacked proper substance and emotion. A sting of superficiality tarnished the story, as character and plot simply needed more ‘meat on the bone’ to truly harness any impact or cathartic bite.

Often leaning further into laboured exercise than emotional exorcise, for a film mocking and examining video nasty mayhem much of it didn’t feel nasty enough. Moments of violence lacked the cathartic thrill of exploitative body horror, and the screenplay at times felt like skin and bones begging to be fleshed out.

Moving to a dull beat at times, Censor does take time to push the story to its climax. Some earlier moments begged the headline ‘Videodrone’, but it did eventually rise from the dead with a bloody bite. It is an admirable film with enough substance for an intriguing Tuesday night watch. But it lacks the unflinching audacity and power of the video nasties of the 80s. In many ways, it felt like a cinephile’s dream and an average viewers nightmare.

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HORROR

Trap | Official Trailer

A father and teen daughter attend a pop concert, where they realize they’re at the center of a dark and sinister event.

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Genre:

Crime, Horror, Mystery

Release Date:

August 9, 2024

Director:

M. Night Shyamalan

Cast:

Josh Hartnett, Hayley Mills, Marnie McPhail

Plot Summary:

A father and teen daughter attend a pop concert, where they realize they’re at the center of a dark and sinister event.

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HORROR

Speak No Evil | Official Trailer

A family invited to spend a weekend in an idyllic country house, goes from a dream vacation to a psychological nightmare.

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Speak no Evil [credit: Universal Pictures]

Genre:

Drama, Horror, Thriller

Release Date:

September 13, 2024

Director:

James Watkins

Cast:

James McAvoy, Aisling Franciosi, Dan Hough

Plot Summary:

A family invited to spend a weekend in an idyllic country house, goes from a dream vacation to a psychological nightmare.

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HORROR

MaXXXine | Official Trailer – A24

In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx finally gets her big break. But as a mysterious killer stalks the starlets of Hollywood, a trail of blood threatens to reveal her sinister past.

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MaXXXine [credit: A24]

Genre:

Horror

Release Date:

July 5, 2024

Director:

Ti West

Cast:

Giancarlo Esposito, Mia Goth, Michelle Monaghan

Plot Summary:

In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx finally gets her big break. But as a mysterious killer stalks the starlets of Hollywood, a trail of blood threatens to reveal her sinister past.

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