Censor co-writer and director Prano Bailey-Bond talks to Isaac Feldberg about video nasties, mass hysteria and being inspired by The Beyond.
“All these violent paintings in galleries are elevated and celebrated, but somehow cinema that’s violent has in the past been frowned upon.” —Prano Bailey-Bond
In 1980s Britain, low-budget horror titles swept the country’s then-nascent VHS market and sparked a moral panic as the tabloid press, government officials and conservative activists decried the films’ violent content, believing it would corrupt a generation. Before legislation was passed to bring home video under the jurisdiction of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), the Director of Public Prosecutions legitimized this hysteria by issuing a list of 72 so-called “video nasties”, from Possession to Cannibal Holocaust, that it alleged had violated obscenity laws.
Around half were ultimately prosecuted, as police raided video shops and moral crusaders spread misinformation on the airwaves. But inside one family home in rural Wales, “I was watching whatever I could get my hands on,” says Prano Bailey-Bond, co-writer and director of Censor, a psychological horror steeped in the world of video nasties.
Set in 1985, Bailey-Bond’s stylishly subversive thriller channels the period’s repressive atmosphere and underlying absurdity while honoring the transgressive cheap thrills of the nasties at its center. Niamh Algar stars as Enid, a tightly wound censor who approaches her job diligently (“Eye gouging must go!” reads one entry on her notepad) but lacks a life outside the office.
Screening a mysterious horror title one day, Enid discovers sequences that remind her strongly of a childhood trauma—the unsolved disappearance of her sister. As she investigates, the palpable gloom of Thatcher’s London gives way to delirious, giallo-inspired dream sequences, and the picture quality of Censor itself appears to break down, aspect ratios shifting to trap viewers inside a vintage VHS frame.
“The film is about format,” explains Bailey-Bond, who shot mostly on 35mm and wanted Censor to eventually resemble a video nasty in its increasing throbs of gore, color and static. It was especially important to capture the faded look of video nasties that had been circulating underground for years. “Fans were getting hold of nasties and creating next-generation copies, so the image was degrading slightly with each VHS.” Viewers rewinding and rewatching the scary bits only degraded tapes further, she recalls. “People would talk about their experiences in that sense, knowing something really horrible was coming up because the picture got more fuzzy.”
Prano Bailey-Bond on the set of ‘Censor’.
Growing up, Bailey-Bond lived far from the nearest cinema. Instead, she worshipped at the altar of her parents’ VHS shelf, filled with tapes recorded off low-signal Welsh television. As video nasties made headlines, she was too young to grasp the controversy but old enough to take an interest in the films. The Evil Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, two better-known nasties, were among her first.
But Bailey-Bond believes she was first set on a path toward filmmaking after seeing David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. “I love the way it speaks to the dark underbelly of society, and to the dark side within us as people,” the director says. Initially gobsmacked by the film’s uncanny mystery of sexual obsession and shadow selves, she kept coming back. “I’d been swept away by the Lynchian universe at first,” she says. “But the more I analyzed it the more clever it became.”
Initially, Bailey-Bond pictured herself on screen, starring in the kinds of films that had mesmerized her. While studying performing arts she directed an absurdist play, The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco, and caught the filmmaking bug. “I was quite blown away by the experience of shaping a performance from the outside,” she recalls. “I also used to paint quite a lot, so it felt like directing was a way of me fusing performance and painting to create images.”
Niamh Algar as Enid in ‘Censor’.
Bailey-Bond’s obsession with film exceeded her love of theater. “I felt more liberated by it,” she says. “You could control point of view and work in a more intricate way with sound.” After studying at the London College of Printing, she started at Goldcrest Films as a runner and worked various post-production jobs, including as an editor. It would be cheaper to make movies, she knew, if she could do more herself.
The first seed of an idea for Censor came not from video nasties but their precursor, Hammer horror, which shocked 1970s censors with its bloodletting and then-scandalous eroticism. Titles like The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and Twins of Evil starred legends like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but they were racier than Hammer’s famed gothic horror.
“During that period, censors would automatically cut any image of blood on the breast of a woman, because they believed it would make men likely to commit rape,” explains Bailey-Bond, whose research never satisfied the biggest question this practice raised. “Surely, most of the censors in that period would have been men—so, I thought, what stops the censor from losing control, if these images are meant to make us do horrible things?”
To get inside a censor’s head, Bailey-Bond and co-writer Anthony Fletcher spent time in the archives of the BBFC (now the British Board of Film Classification), examining notes on nasties like The Last House on the Left and The Driller Killer. “Even though you’ve only got their initials at the end of each comment, you start to see each individual censor’s personality coming through in the way they viewed the film,” she says. “Everybody’s got a political angle on why they’re there, what they think is and isn’t okay.”
As Enid develops an unhealthy fascination with a (fictional) filmmaker named Frederick North, Censor delves into two of his video nasties. Filming them on Super 8mm, Bailey-Bond used these films-within-the-film to honor her heroes. Asunder, with its hallucinatory atmosphere, evoked Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Lucio Fulci’s midnight classic The Beyond. “The end of that film is hell in a great way,” she says enthusiastically of the latter. “It’s not disgusting, but it makes you feel sick, the nightmarishness of where those characters end up.”
North’s Don’t Go in the Church, meanwhile, conjures The Blood on Satan’s Claw, about two girls in a dark forest; its title also references Don’t Go in the Woods and Don’t Go in the House. Bailey-Bond says it’s most indebted to “haunting” no-budget Axe (alternately titled Lisa, Lisa).
Surprisingly, one nasty that didn’t influence Censor is The Witch Who Came from the Sea, about an emotionally scarred woman who lashes out in ways she can’t control. “It feels like a companion piece in some ways, looking at this traumatized woman and this strange kaleidoscope of memory and experience all clashing together,” says Bailey-Bond, who saw the film, considered a masterpiece by many, after filming wrapped.
Censor is a cautionary tale, but it takes a clear stance against “depiction is dangerous” rhetoric. “No piece of art is going to make somebody go out and do something immoral,” affirms Bailey-Bond. “The reasons people do terrible things are much more deep-rooted. It’s important we look at that and at mental health, at society and the way we look after each other.”
“That was something I was always thinking about in terms of how Enid communicates in Censor, how closed-off she is from everyone else. She’s left to deal with everything on her own. That’s much more dangerous than any film.”
Cole’s alphabetical list of video nasties
Justin LaLiberty’s list of genre cinema directed by women and movies shot on film from 2013 onwards
Dominic Corry’s interview with one of Censor’s producers, Ant Timpson, on his feature directorial debut, Come to Daddy
Follow Isaac and Prano on Letterboxd
‘Censor’ is in theaters now and on demand from June 18.
Can you talk more about Victor and Milo the puppy? I love all the little details you've dropped about them so far. <3
Sure I can!
-Milo's presence in that bookshop was, as far as Victor was concerned, a mistake from the get go. Polly had *just* passed on, and already the humans were looking to replace her - and with *another dog* no less. Frankly, he was horribly insulted by the whole thing (and terribly hurt, but he won't admit that). He sulked for weeks, drifting through the aisles and in the spaces between the books like a ghost.
He was hardly impressed by the eventual acquisition of what the children of the owners were calling “Operation: Cheer the cat up” - aka this little mixed breed puppy who was top heavy, and would say such ridiculous things like “Your face is upside down” while peering up at Victor’s frowning muzzle from standing on his head. He asked inane questions and followed him like a shadow, even when snapped or hissed at. Worst of all, the clientele seemed to love him, reaffirming Victor’s fears that old Polly would be forgotten before her time after all.
There wasn’t really any true moment of heel face turn for Victor growing to tolerate the pup, it happened very gradually. An explanation of his rather unique perspective on things here, an invitation to a walk there. Finding him buried under the cushions on the floor looking for treasure, dragging out picture books and trying to copy the cat’s reading posture as close as he could, napping in Victor’s cat bed (because he wanted to be near him) but at the veeery corner so he wouldn’t bother him. You know, standard kid stuff.
Victor was thoroughly charmed by the pup’s persistence most of all - very cat like of him to be so stubborn, challenging the boundary like a rubber band. He wasn’t made of stone after all. Perhaps, Victor would think as the patrons would laugh as Milo wove in and out of their legs, he wasn’t really there to replace his old friend - that it was never really about that - that the pup’s motivation of wanting to be liked was just in his nature.
Perhaps Victor could accept this.
-Milo misheard Victor's initial gruff reveal of his name as "Bitter" (The c got lost somewhere = Vittor, the v was clipped and short, coming across as a "b" sound = bitter). He'll still call him that from time to time when he’s being a wet blanket (though less so when he's grown into his paws - he knows the cat doesn’t like it much).
-Milo prefers going on walks with Victor than Hannah because he doesn’t even have to wear a leash which makes him feel very grown up. Occasionally, when Victor is so inclined, he’ll allow Milo to hold his paw (so long as he doesn’t tug - he’s not very good at that just yet), or (and this is very rare), hold his tail in his mouth like Victor’s own children would have been given permission to do (if he had any).
-Milo would bring the paper into the shop every morning (he wanted to be a delivery dog when he got bigger - he was already so good at it and hardly even drooled on the paper at all!), often missing pages or with holes. Victor may have been the one to teach him to hold the paper softer in his mouth so they would stop getting half headlines, or the bundle chords getting snapped and papers flying everywhere. Not because the dream was disarmingly charming to the cat and he wanted to help in his own way, not at all.
-Milo really likes YA books, particularly if they’re about animal groups; Victor thinks they're mostly fluff and drivel aside from a few outliers. That being said, he's read more than his fair share to the pup because they're the only ones he'll sit still for (anything for some peace and quiet). Occasionally, Victor will purposefully replace one of the characters in the book with a dog, regardless of the story, if only to see Milo light up.
-Milo has more “baby cat” friends than other puppy friends - they’re just more easily accessible and the only parent like figures he has are Victor and Mirza. He often forgets his own strength and size, and there have been a handful of incidents, but Milo’s stubbornness is matched and bested only by Victor himself, and he still manages to coax any wary parents into letting the kids play together - better they be acclimatized to each other than kept purposefully apart, no?
-Victor is the *very first* to call Milo “a little beast”, but immediately bristles on the defensive if other cats insult him. He’s also very wary of other dogs commenting on him in any way, lest he be insulted in a whole other way (like the one time Mr. Jacobs’ bulldog called him “too cat like for his own good” and insinuated that Victor was “ruining him”).
- Pollicle Dogs believe that every dog has a *purpose*, whether that be something big and grandiose or small and seemingly insignificant. They believe they are put in places and with people for a reason, and that it's up to the dogs to figure out where and why they're needed. Milo casually drops "I think I may be here for you to stop saying goodbye" on Victor's shoulders on a gloomy fall morning. When prompted further to explain the confusing statement, Milo just shrugged and went back to chewing on his rope. Victor couldn’t exactly disparage him this, he was just a child and Polly hadn't been terribly inclined towards the philosophical either, but Victor ponders on this comment from time to time.
African Development Bank launches Kangaroo social bond worth $464million
African Development Bank launches Kangaroo social bond worth $464million
The African Development Bank said on Monday it is returning to the Australian capital market with the launch of a 5.5-year $464 million Kangaroo social bond.
The development bank said the deal was led by Nomura and RBC Capital Markets.
It added that the second social bond, following a $3.1 billion 3-year issue launched last year to fight the coronavirus pandemic, will be used to improve access…
"I found a better place to stay, at least," he sighed, looking over the supplies he had brought with him. There wasn't much in the way of food, just the few things he had in his room earlier. Mostly just energy bars. He would need a more reliable food source, and soon. "I can't stay in one place, though. That'll get me caught easily. I'm not going back yet. I can't."
Those people are the worst you don't just give a kitten away to someone just to change your mind halfway through what the heck??? What if they change their minds again????? It's a kitten not a piece of furniture I am baffled
i know :/ it’s not an easy decision to part ways with your pet... so i am sure they put a lot of thought into it... but for them to turn around and ask for the kitten back is just :( and the thing is this is a living creature it’s not like im returning a piece of furniture like you said... how many times does a kitten need to be passed around like this... because he belonged to someone else before they had him... it’s only been two days like we bought him in the evening on sunday and it’s tuesday now like what were they thinking selling him when they’re clearly not prepared to... but i will probably give him back. i wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing my actions hurt someone this bad... but it’s sad :(
Oooh. I don’t usually get emotional with books or anything but there are a few that manage to hit me.
Sadness in terms of “oh my god this is horrible that this happened and holy crap I can’t even imagine going through this; this actually happened to people” I would say Between Shades of Gray which is about the Lithuanian genocide. I had never even heard about this before reading the book.
Sadness in terms of “I may just start crying because this is beautifully sad” would be Clockwork Princess. You know that scene with Will when he realizes that the Parabatai bond is broken. Yeah. That’s the one. Just in general you want to cry the whole time because Jem freaking Carstairs.
Shoto visiting Dabi in jail: They gave me five minutes for visitation...
Dabi picking the dirt out of his nails: That's a lot more they gave you in the last year now- so let's cut the chase...why are you here?
Shoto, blank face: I never wanted to be the "Golden Child"...to be honest I hated it.
Dabi: You just came here to tell me this?
Shoto: No, if it wasn't for a friend of mine- I wouldn't be here talking to you like I am now. In fact, I would more than likely be where you are now. -slowly lifts up his left hand examining it- I hated our father, very much so that I refused to use my right side.
Shoto: Father, had said he was going to change. Become a better person - however I didn't right away accepted his apology. The one he needed to apologize the most to was you.
Dabi: He can stick that apology up his a-
Shoto cutting Dabi off: I know, but if we can't accept for him to change and actually work for it, work to be a better father and a hero...how can I accept you to apologize?
Dabi: Why in the hell, do you want me to apologize for what I did? Inji was the one who did this to our family! He is the the reason I'm like this; and yet you want me to fully accept his apology, and for me to apologize to him?!
Shoto, closes his right fist while looking up at his long lost brother: I'm not asking you to accept it right away- nor do I think that you should apologize to him... -looks down-...
David:...Then who should I apologize to then?
Shoto, not realizing he's starting to cry: Thats something your going to have to figure out on your own.
Dabi, fully realizing the statement Shoto had said: Look, I-
Dabi gets cut off by the intercom: Times up, please take your leave.
Shoto standing up and about to walk out the door: I'll talk to you next time
Dabi being escorted away to his cell, thinking to himself: It might take a while, but eventually, I'll say it. However, in the meantime...
Shoto, looking back at the building where Dabi is kept: I hope-
Dabi + Shoto: We both can look back, and be able to laugh together.
i recently bought quite a bit of white broadcloth on sale since i finally exhausted the offcut i had. i specifically got it to make like aprons and petticoats and bloomers and things, but the first thing i want to make when i get the chance is a nightgown for addy!!
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just here to let you know that i will forever be angry that i didn't write the lines "he'd never known before that alive could be a synonym for beautiful," "...understanding that to feel cold on the surface of his skin means that there must be something warm and living underneath," and "...(because when the day needed saving it was always, always James.)" all from bond & free bc... i will never get over them & sometimes go back just to reread them and engrain it in my brain
oh man. I’m about to get a bit emo so pls forgive me, u did not ask to be word-vomited at by this random person on tumblr. but thank you so much, because this means the world to me.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble with Bond and Free lately, wondering if it has any meaning past my own quiet enjoyment; if it brings anything new to the figurative Marauders table, especially in the presence of so many amazing canon works that are so well-written, that exposit so many parts of canon that I barely even wrap my head around. so I really just want to tell you how happy I am that there are lines that resonate, and that you have enjoyed the story. putting prose together for Bond and Free is really such a joy.
this is a very strange moment for me with Bond and Free so again, thank you. this was so lovely to receive💕 xx