Over the last decade or so, there has been a long overdue increase in opportunities for female film-makers working within the horror genre, and writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond is the latest film-maker to join the likes of Julia Ducournau (Raw, the upcoming Titane), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) and Rose Glass (Saint Maud) in crafting a debut feature which intelligently foregrounds a female perspective in a genre which has often harboured historically misogynistic elements.
It is 1980s Britain; a time of Thatcher, smoking indoors and video nasties. Niamh Algar plays Enid, the censor of the title; an intense, tightly-wound woman who takes her job of viewing violent films submitted for classification very seriously. There are shades of Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio as amidst her routine viewings of eye-gougings and explosive violence, one film, titled Don’t Go Into the Church seems to awaken something in Enid’s mind – a repressed trauma, a subconscious grotesque fantasy, or something altogether stranger?
Bailey-Bond’s direction is impeccable throughout, combining wonderfully grey 80s period detail (great work by Saint Maud production designer Paulina Rzeszowska), an atmosphere of very British repression, Carpenter-esque scenes of strangely glowing fog and forests, and the seedy, under-the-counter world of video nasties to great effect. Throw in Michael Smiley’s turn as a repulsively slimey horror producer and Algar’s finely-tuned, expressive performance and this is an impressive, stylish and thoughtful debut.