Thursday 27 January 2022

Censor (2021)

"Top Quality Art House BritHorror"

One of HMC's Top Ten films of 2021, Prano Bailey-Bond's CENSOR gets the kind of luxury treatment that's become de rigeur from Second Sight Films, with two Blu-ray discs, a book and art cards, all housed in a rigid slipcase.

We're in Britain in the 1980s at the height of Video Nasty mania. Enid (Niamh Algar) works as a film censor where her job is to watch and assess gruesome and violent material, or at least those are the only kinds of films we ever see her watching. She, along with a co-assessor, then recommends if the film should be banned ('rejected') or released with cuts. She frequently finds the material difficult to watch, as do some (but not all) of her colleagues.

As well as a job she often finds hard to stomach, Enid has other problems. There's the suggestion she's responsible for the disappearance of her sister Nina in the woods many years ago. Enid's parents are convinced Nina is dead and have a death certificate drawn up to help everyone move on. But Enid isn't convinced and her job, her desire to find her sister, and her faltering grip on reality all combine to cause her to spiral into madness.

At least that's what I took away from CENSOR, that and the idea that sometimes those who want to take on the job of film censor job may well be the least suited to it. Director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond has fun with coloured lighting and altering aspect ratios to emphasise Enid's disorientation and Niamh Algar does a fine job in the lead role, ably assisted by a cast that includes a number of familiar faces from British television. 

Extras on Second Sight's two disc set kick off with three commentary tracks - Bailey-Bond and Kim Newman (one of the executive producers of CENSOR) on the first, Bailey-Bond and other members of the crew on the second, and finally Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam and Miranda Corcoran on the third. Needless to say the first two are more concerned with the nuts and bolts of the films genesis and shooting while the third offers an academic analysis of the film. 

Disc one also includes a 20 minute making of as well as Bailey-Bond's 15 minute short film 'Nasty' which features some familiar footage and a familiar forest location. My Nasty Memories is 28 minutes with the always cheerful David Gregory of Severin Films who gives an accurate, entertaining and nostalgic (for those of us who were there) account of Britain in the 1980s and the video nasty phenomenon. Finally, you get both parts of Blue Underground's 'Ban the Sadist Videos!' documentary which runs to about 100 minutes in total.

Disc two offers a stack of interviews, including Prano Bailey Bond (30 minutes), Niamh Algar (22 minutes), co-writer Anthony Fletcher (12 minutes), DP Annika Summerson (18 minutes), editor Mark Towns (13 minutes) and composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (11 minutes). Alexandra Heller-Nicholas offers a 21 minute critical appraisal and there's a 14 minute post-screening Q&A. You also get a fascinating 40 minute conversation between Bailey-Bond and David Hyman who is one of the BBFC's 'Compliance Officers' - the modern term for what in the old days would have been 'censor' and the whole package is rounded off with a couple of minutes of deleted scenes. 

Prano Bailey-Bond's CENSOR is out from Second Sight Films in a limited edition two disc set with book, art cards and slipcase on Monday 31st January 2022

Sunday 2 January 2022

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

The Sony/Marvel franchise continues on its own semi-independent path with the sequel to 2018's VENOM, getting a 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD release from Sony after its digital download and keep release last Christmas Eve.

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is now living in knockabout symbiotic sort-of harmony with the organism known as Venom when he gets the chance to interview Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) on death row. Unfortunately for all concerned, Cletus manages to ingest some of Eddie's (and therefore Venom's) DNA and becomes host to a similar creature, this one named Carnage. Cletus / Carnage escapes and sets off to find Cletus' lover Shriek (Naomie Harris) who can manipulate sound, and it's up to Eddie / Venom to stop both of them.

Like its predecessor, VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE comes to our screens feeling oddly...lacking, as if either a chunk of the script wasn't filmed or too much of what was filmed ended up being cut. This may simply be indicative of the complexity (and length) of other modern super hero movies, and if you're looking for a straightforward goodies vs baddies plot then this will do the job for you. Anyone looking for more will have to satisfy themselves with wondering which bits were shot in the film's setting of San Francisco and which were filmed at London South Bank University and Leavesdon Studios in Hertfordshire. Needless to say the preponderance of British cast members will help in that regard.

Extras on Sony's 4KUHD and Blu-ray discs include a seven minute making of featurette (the only extra on the DVD), three minutes of out-takes and bloopers, nine minutes of deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurettes on Eddie & Venom (ten minutes), Marvel Easter Eggs found in the film (four minutes), Cletus Kasady and Cletus and Shriek (five minutes each), Concept to Carnage (four minutes), eight minutes of scenes before visual effects were added, and a one minute trailer for the extras. There is no commentary track. 

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE is out on 4KUHD, Blu-ray and DVD from Sony on Monday 3rd January 2022