A video nasties film censor finds her work rather too absorbing in this razor-sharp first feature from the Welsh writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond

This thrilling, dizzying debut from Welsh writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond is a nostalgic treat for anyone old enough to remember the infamous “video nasties” scare of the early 80s. Yet beneath the retro surface lies a more universal tale about the power of horror to confront our deepest fears – a timeless celebration of the liberating nature of the dark side. Blessed with a sharp eye for period detail (horror maven Kim Newman gets an exec-producer credit) and a refreshingly irreverent attitude to nerdy fan-boy “facts”, Censor conjures a serpentine tale of trauma, repression and liberation, all mediated through the deliciously tactile medium of illicit videotapes and pre-internet media panics.

Niamh Algar, who proved so mesmerising in Calm With Horses, is Enid, a film censor who spends her days watching, cutting and classifying scenes of violence in mid-80s Britain. It’s a queasy time, with press and public eager to find a scapegoat for the nation’s many ills. Yet despite being shocked by much of what she sees on tape, Enid is also strangely drawn to some of the more outre horror titles, particularly the work of cult director Frederick North (Adrian Schiller), whose schlocky, scary movies seem to offer answers to long-buried questions. As Enid’s macabre fascination grows, so fiction and reality become intertwined.

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