The following article takes a deep dive into some of the themes of Prano Bailey-Bond‘s horror film Censor. One of the film’s strengths is the ambiguity around the film’s intense climax. Festivals Editor Dallas King theorises what this could mean for the central character of Enid so be warned that this article will feature explicit, spoiler-filled discussion of the third act…
In the final frames of Censor, a video cassette with the film’s title on it is ejected from a VCR.
Is this just a cool visual reference to the subject matter of video nasties, indicating the conclusion of the story or does it hint at a far more disturbing fate for the main character of Enid.
After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.
Believing an actress called Alice Lee is the grown up version of her missing sister Nina, Enid visits the film set of the sequel to Don’t Go To The Church. Her failed attempt to rescue her “sister” Alice Lee results in the deaths of the Beast Man and director Frederick North. Enid is left alone in the forest having been told by Alice that she is definitely not related to her. In her deranged state, she presses play on a remote control, inserting herself into a movie that sees Enid rescue Alice and drive her home to reunite the estranged family.
Through white noise and breaks in the video feed, it is clear that this happy ending is not real and Enid has finally lost her mind.
However, what if everything that transpired in the movie was actually a figment of Enid’s imagination. A fictional construct created by Enid to cope with the trauma, guilt and grief surrounding the disappearance of her sister?
It is established in a scene with her parents that Enid was with her younger sister Nina the day she went missing but has been unable to recall what happened due to trauma. What if she was responsible for her sister’s death and disappearance due to an exposure to the video nasties of the Eighties?
In an effort to cope with the terrible crime she committed, a grown up Enid has created the role of being a film censor to right the wrong and protect others from the same fate that she suffered.
Unfortunately for Enid, there are two events which shatter her illusion and begin the slow descent into madness.
- The Amnesiac Killer
Enid is summoned to her boss’s office to be told that a man murdered his wife and children and the press are linking it to the film that she passed called Deranged. This could be reality bleeding into fantasy. She is the real Amnesiac Killer in that she murdered her sister but was unable to remember and was then locked away in a mental institution. In her mind, she gives her unspeakable act to another person as a way to cope with the guilt.
Central to this theory is a conversation that Enid has with fellow censor Perkins:
“How can he not remember what he did?”. “It could be basic trauma. You’d be surprised what the human brain can edit out when it can’t handle the truth.”
Unable to cope with what she did, she has edited out the memory of her sister’s murder by her own hand. Creating this new reality in its place. One where she is the hero not the villain.
- Don’t Go In The Church
At the behest of producer Doug Smart, Enid is assigned to watch the new film by director Frederick North. The film features two young girls in the woods with the older one forcing the younger one to enter a creepy looking cabin before killing her with an axe. Seeing this triggers a memory from Enid’s past. Reality is threatening to bleed into the fantasy.
Why do people go to church? To confess, to repent their sins. By not going to church, Enid is able to avoid confronting the truth. When she watches this film, she is forced to confront her past, the murder and disappearance of her sister (potentially by her own hand). Seeing it awakens and unlocks her memories and provokes a physical reaction i.e. vomiting.
From this point on, Enid becomes increasingly mentally unstable and also appears to be uncomfortable in her own skin. Not only does she physically adjust her posture on several occasions but she is seen picking at the skin on her fingers at increasing regularity as the film progresses.
Many of the film titles mentioned in Censor relate to Enid’s deteriorating mental state.
- Extreme Coda – Coda can refer to the final part of an event. Extreme Coda is a foreshadowing of the film’s final act where it rapidly descends into madness and violence.
- Deranged – The film that supposedly inspired the Amnesiac Killer, it is another hint at Enid’s state of mind.
- Asunder – Definition: Apart from each other – to separate. Enid is separated from her sister but could also refer to her being separated from reality
- The Day The World Began – Enid picks up a copy of The Day The World Began in a video store. The cover features a brightly coloured image of a family standing outside a house. The final scene of her parents and Alice outside the family home is eerily reminiscent of the video cover. Another example of the lines between fiction and reality becoming increasingly blurred. The title relates to the day that Enid killed Nina and created this new version of reality to cope with what she had done.
By the final act of the film, Enid is unable and unwilling to accept reality. Anyone who threatens her version of reality is removed.
Producer Doug Smart is the one who provides the film Don’t Go In The Church which triggers the memory. The surname Smart could refer to those who know the truth and because of this, Enid kills him in his own home.
Then on the set of the Church sequel, Enid confronts North and asks him how he got the idea for the film and the murder of the young girl. He claims to draw inspiration from real life stating “people think that I create horror. Horror is already out there, in all of us” and she becomes enraged claiming that isn’t how it happened. That film, and its director, are a direct threat to her carefully constructed reality and must be removed.
That is why when the actress Alice Lee doesn’t play her part and confirm that she is Nina, Enid weeps on the floor repeating “ you have to be her, you have be her” before using the remote control to play a new version of the ending.
Finally, and quite a major point, the protagonist’s name is Enid Baine. This literally translates to “Bide Insane” i.e. to remain insane. The biggest hint yet that Enid has always been mad and living in her fantasy world.
One of the mottos of the video stores was “Be Kind Rewind”. With the VHS having rewound and ejected from the VCR at the end of the movie, is Enid doomed to replay the story in her mind again and again?
Censor is in UK cinemas now. Read our five star review here.