Censor Trailer Takes On the Video Nasties

Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo credit: Maria Lax. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Since its premiere at The Sundance Film Festival, Censor has been on my shortlist of movies I have to see. Set on the backdrop of the “Video Nasties” era in the 1980s, when horror films became the political scapegoat for the U.K. government to blame the increase in its nation’s violence on, the film revolves around a tightly wound British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) Censor named Enid (Niamh Algar) whose job is to edit films to make them suitable for a rating classification. 

Many popular films that were marked “Video Nasties” in the 1980s were low-budget cult horror films considered by many today to be classics of the genre like Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Most of these then underground films were either bypassing cinemas or, because of new laws, were forced to edit and release new cuts of their films that removed violence and other obscene material before being allowed distribution for home release. While most complied with the heavy standards, some films were strictly banned. And a select few were both banned and prosecuted under an obscenity charge as a part of the Video Recordings Act of 1984. Any films on the list that passed came with warnings issued before the film. Revisions to these laws have since been made, relaxing the strict code of conduct, though some films remain cut or have yet to receive a video release in the U.K.  

Censor embeds itself on both sides of this process when Enid is asked to edit a film producer’s (Michael Smiley) latest submission by a mysterious director named Frederick North (Adrian Schiller). North’s film seemingly features Enid’s missing sister Nina (Sophia La Porta), thought dead by absentia, now going under the name Alice Lee. But is Enid seeing the film correctly, or does she have a guilty conscience from a past she’s fuzzy about, and the images in the film have turned her mind to violence as the government insists? 

The first two films I thought of when I first saw Censor’s trailer were David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. Both filmmakers had titles labeled “Video Nasty,” with Cronenberg’s Rabid and Carpenter’s The Thing making the cut. Videodrome shows a television station host become drawn into the sex and violence he sees broadcast on a rogue station which ultimately transforms him (in more ways than one) into a violent man. In the Mouth of Madness does something similar, where a book by a reclusive New England author begins transforming its readers into violent creatures, ending with the film adaptation having the same effect. If nothing else, Prano Bailey-Bond, director of Censor, is in good company among horror icons like these, though, if you take a look at Censor’s coloring and light work, you’ll see the film has masterful artistry behind it that is all it’s own.

As the trailer comes to a close, you can hear Michael Smiley say, “People think that I create horror. Horror is already out there, in all of us.” which promotes the idea that you can censor whatever you want. It doesn’t stop the darkness in any of us. Having a cathartic outlet, like watching a horror film, for instance, is a much better option. 

Censor makes its way into theaters on June 11 before VOD on June 18. 

So what do you think of the trailer for Censor? Do you agree with Sean that it has beautiful color and light work? Does it remind you of Carpenter, Cronenberg, or anyone else? Let us know in the comments! And if you’re looking for more horror trailers, we’ve got you covered:

“The Blazing World Trailer Highlights an Eye-Popping Visual Feast”

“Netflix’s Night Teeth Trailer Has Bite”

“Midnight Mass: Mike Flanagan’s Ultimate Mashup”

“Elves Trailer Turns Another Christmas Icon into a Horrific Monster”

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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