2021 Festival Review – Censor

Transcending into a cathartic chaos is Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor, a tragically stunning yet deceitful enigma that allures as much as it challenges and repels. Birthing Censor’s righteous battle of truth and fiction is a closely confined trip of what grief can manifest and how our own senses and thoughts can be a source of both protection and betrayal. 

Censor is positioned at a dreadfully treacherous era for cinema during the ‘video nasty’ epidemic which saw a nationwide moral panic erupt when home video was introduced. Headlines boasting about moral corruption and the translation of violence on screen would commonly feature on every news outlet, brainwashing the public into a state of malleability, forcing the government to create the Video Recordings Act (1984).

With the film bans, fines, and prosecutions also came an entitlement that meant that the BBFC had a ‘duty of care’, allowing film censors near ultimate control.

Censor uses this history as a walkway for the true narrative to run. We witness Enid (Niamh Algar), a tightly wound film classifier slowly slip into a state of hysterical paranoia after becoming entranced by a film directed by the absent Frederick North (Adrian Schiller) titled Don’t Go in the Church’. Enid immediately links the disturbing film to the mysterious disappearance of her sister, sending her into an entwined matrix of instability, obsession, and turmoil. 

Enid’s demeanour is strong as she continuously likens her profession to the job of a “protector”, guarding the innocent from the obscene. Her unyielding attitude sits authortainly with her, despite the fact that there is a hinted notion that her co-workers idly embroider her as an over disciplined conformist as they happily ask her to type up their notes and have no trouble in a bit of break-room gossip regarding her conduct. Forming from this is an awareness of her isolation. 

It is made clear that since her sister’s disappearance she has been a lone rider whose evening routine is a solo walk home followed by a crossword. Enid may specialise in watching absurd material, but her personal life is blank.

For me this is what was one of the most brewing & unnerving aspects of Censor. The preconception of Enid being the ‘odd-one-out’ at work accompanied by her lonely habitat made her descent into this rabbit hole entirely chilling. It’s this drastic shift from a dull existence to a frenzied nightmare that took me by surprise as there is no comfort, even before the terror starts. During her solarity I kept waiting for something to jump out from behind the couch or for a ghostly shadow to walk past startling the silence, but Bailey-Bond refuses to give us that relief. Instead she forces you to feel alone like Enid, and sit and steam in the unknown. 

Joining this impending dread found in loneliness is the implication of harm from your surroundings. The video nasty panic surged like wildfire amongst the British public, in essence the ludicrousness overshadowed the genuinity of the threat. What resulted from this was a generalised phobia over videos. Bailey-Bond imitates this supposed ‘hazard’ in a joviant yet serious manner through associating the mechanics of a video itself with horror. Multiple shots are shown of a blank tv screen illuminated by that familiar fuzz, accompanying these visuals is a starkly dark sound of muted terror, alongside a fearful expression coming from Enid. Continuing this mimicry is the various tones of blue and red and static overlays which are commonly featured throughout the film’s most harrowing scenes. 

Censor bravely stares back at you, valiantly questioning the audience’s morals. We side with Enid, but should we? And like a blistering volcano waiting to burst, Censor tiptoes around our expectations to create a threat level where we are more frightened about what is not shown than what is. 

You can check out Censor on Friday 24th September 2021 at this years fest, tickets and details here.

Also check our article on ‘Video Nasties‘ from earlier in the year here.


2021 Festival Review – The August Club

The August Club is everything you could want in a comedy horror all wrapped up with innovative character designs, excellent theming, and a creative design. Taking us on this Goosebumps-esque journey is the timid Noah (James Grainger), and the boisterous Jack (Lucas Byrne) who have no other choice but to form an unlikely friendship after a detention at the beginning of summer ends up with them being bullied into visiting a creepy old house that is rumoured to be haunted by a ghastly vampire known as Count Varias (David Lavery). 

The August Club is the definition of a passion project as creator Daniel Richardson has built this dark imaginative journey from the ground up. The fantastical elements ring to the nostalgic tones of childhood adventures. Within minutes you’ll be transported back in time to the easier days where telling a creepy story at a sleepover would leave shivers down your spine for days; and this is exactly what Richardson brings back to life, a sense of simplicity within horror. You don’t need buckets of blood and guts to be spooked, instead a good old ‘bump in the night’ story is all that is needed. 

Allowing this exciting tale to come to life is the setting, character backstory, mood, and tone. The film is born and bred in the North East of England, with the Yorkshire setting casting a gloomy grey skyline over Count Varias’s grim manor, generating a daunting thematic impression. Continuing this fabrication of horror-filled doom is the ominous vampire lair that is caked in horror iconography, with plenty of cobwebs, chains, skulls, and an intimidatingly large coffin hosting the Count himself.

This ‘haunted setting is a drastic world apart from Jack and Noah’s ordinary surroundings, which is rife with a realist undertone. Richardson isn’t afraid to dive into Jack and Noah’s background. Jack bears a brave personality where nothing scares him, but the thought of him returning home to his reckless family terrifies him. Whereas Noah is over-sheltered to the point that he has no friends and spends his days alone. 

The August Club is a must watch that will have you laughing one minute and then amazed by the horror the next! 

You can check out The August Club on Saturday 25th September 2021 at this years fest, tickets and details here.