In Thatcher’s Britain, at the height of video nasty fever, Enid, a buttoned-down film censor who sincerely believes that her work protects society, comes across a film which challenges her sense of reality. Having lost her sister many years before, the lack of resolution to her disappearance causes Enid to believe one of the actresses in a low-budget horror is her sister, now grown into adulthood. As she plunges into the murky world of the very thing she despises, she begins to lose herself in her quest to regain her sister.
Loved Censor. Within the frame of the tv screen, all the horror is bright red, shrieking with screams, and sumptuous in its gore . In the real world of Enid’s life, everything is grey, with muted, humming lights, and terse and impersonal dialogue. This contrast seems to bleed together, as Enid’s dreams take on this Argento-esque soporific quality.
Enid’s character, in both her personal and professional life, is about self-control, about the repression of extremes of emotion, and keeping a firm grasp on her trauma and grief. By contrast the violence in the videos seems ecstatic, glorying in its own gratuity, a joyful release of the darkest kind.
In some ways it’s a strange choice to use the world of the most explicitly violent horror movies, to show a slow-burning, largely unarticulated, psychological horror. On the tv screen you have all this gore, but the film’s story is of slow internal descent, of all the screws coming loose on a personal’s character, of a break-down of what has pinned them together up until this point.
And the trauma that Enid is grappling with is so massively the opposite of all that tv violence. Her sister went out to play in the forest with Enid, and Enid returned alone. Those are the only facts we have. There seems to be no tangible evidence of what happened to her sister, not by accident or foul play or anything else. Far from bombastic gore, this huge and life-changing thing seemed to happen without leaving a mark.
But a child herself at the time, Enid cannot remember what happened. And it is this hole that frustrates her the most. Because how can she not remember something that important? The greatest frustration is that the answer she seeks most in the world, might somehow be buried inside her, and she can’t see it.
Obviously for anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie before, you go straight to the trope of ‘maybe she did it and doesn’t remember’. But that’s explicitly put on the docket by Enid herself, she’s aware of that as one of her deepest fears. In reality it wouldn’t actually change a whole lot, because whatever happened, Enid blames herself. She was the older sister, it was her suggestion to go play in the woods, whether by her own hand or another’s, it’s her fault her sister is gone. And that sense of responsibility for protection, and fear of a duty failed, drives her character.
Both the character of Enid and the video nasty moral panic feel the need to externalise the terrors concealed in mundane life, in the fragility of mortality, of sanity, and security, so that they might be vanquished. However in crusading against them, it only denies looking deeper into their causes, and that which in ourselves and our lives is unknown and unknowable.