‘Censor’ Invites Us Into a Trippy, Bloody Good Time

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Censor (CREDIT: Maria Lax/Magnet Releasing)

Starring: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley

Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But It’s Pretty Gory as Befitting the Subject Matter

Release Date: June 11, 2021 (Theaters)/June 18, 2021 (On Demand)

I imagine the inspiration for Censor came about while writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond was watching David Cronenberg’s body horror classic Videodrome and thought, “We need another movie like that.” And I can’t be mad at how lovingly Censor wears that influence on its sleeve, as I 100% agree with that sentiment. Let me shout it so that everyone in the back can hear: there aren’t enough movies emulating Videodrome! There should be more! Especially when one of them ensconces itself within the moral panic of Britain’s 1980s “video nasties” era. This is a time and a place when some bloody, bloody fantastical violence is being passed around by the kids – could it somehow burst out of those videocassettes?

If there’s someone at risk of that happening to, it doesn’t appear to be film censor Enid, at least not when we first meet her. She operates with a seen-it-all attitude towards the potentially objectionable content she encounters in her job, and if you’re the type of moviegoer inclined to watch something like this, you probably feel much the same way. But she has a distinct psychological vulnerability: the long-ago, not-fully-explained disappearance of her sister. Feelings of guilt and protectiveness bubble back up and become overwhelming when she’s declared dead in absentia and Enid encounters a video in her work that seems to mirror this past trauma. What follows is a mystery-unraveling journey reminiscent of 8MM, but much more personal and surreal. Throw in some supernatural flair very much a la The Ring, and we’ve got ourselves our very own full-flavored 21st Century Video Nasty.

And now I’ll conclude with a goofy thing I like to occasionally do when reviewing a film, in which I ask if it has convinced me to want to do the thing that it is about. So then, does Censor make me want to be a film censor? In a way, I’m already inclined towards such a pursuit. It’s not that different from being a critic, after all. Both involve thorough analysis and serve the purpose of guiding audiences towards a well-informed decision. So yeah, if the MPAA or some other film board needs some extra help, I wouldn’t mind being called to duty, especially if it means I get to have a trippy sidequest like Enid’s (although I’d prefer it if it weren’t so deadly).

Censor is Recommended If You Like: Videodrome, 8MM, Trading gory cult classics with your friends

Grade: 3 out of 5 Video Nasties

I Saw ‘Spiral’ and ‘Wrath of Man’ on the Same Weekend, and I’m Happy with That Decision

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(CREDIT: Brooke Palmer; Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Spiral:

Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 14, 2021 (Theaters)

Wrath of Man:

Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Chris Reilly, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, DeObia Oparei, Eddie Marsan, Scott Eastwood, Niamh Algar, Babs Olusanmokun, Josh Cowdery, Andy García, Rob Delaney, Lyne Renée

Director: Guy Ritchie

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 7, 2021 (Theaters)

I’m tempted to say that Spiral is my favorite Saw movie, but that wouldn’t mean all that much, as it’s only the second one I’ve ever seen. And it might not even be true anyway, since I enjoyed the philosophical conundrums that Saw 2 made me ponder. But Spiral has a whole “surprisingly favorite” vibe to it in opposition to the rest of the series. It may not be entirely different from its predecessors, but it diverges enough for me to go, “I’m pleased with the new direction.” I may not have seen Saw, Saw‘s IIIIV, Saw 3D, or Jigsaw, but I’m familiar enough with them to feel like I’m emerging upon a new horizon. The torture is still too mentally and visually taxing, but the game’s rules and players have been updated.

As for Wrath of Man, I can confidently say that it is indeed my favorite Guy Ritchie movie. Although I should note that I haven’t seen his early stuff, so this might sound like faint praise. (My previous favorite by default was probably Aladdin. Or the parts of The Gentleman with Hugh Grant.) But Wrath of Man nevertheless stands tall on its own, and in opposition to the rest of its director’s filmography. Instead of being about a bunch of gangsters having a bloody good time, this is about a bunch of criminals and working stiffs being deathly, DEATHLY serious about everything. This movie is so bleak. It’s as bleak as a butt. It’s an elemental examination of Violence, Retribution, and Pure Evil. I don’t want to spend all my moviegoing hours in Wrath of Man Land, but visiting there every once in a while provides a healthy catharsis.

GRADES:
Spiral: 3 out of 5 Minghella Rocks
Wrath of Man: 4 out of 5 Statham Hartnetts