The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has suspended the ratings process on After Dark's upcoming horror film Captivity for one month in the light of the film's controversial billboard campaign in Los Angeles and New York.

In an unprecedented move, After Dark and its distributors will now be required to clear all promotional materials as well as the venues of all advertising buys relating to the film.

The sanction follows After Dark's decision to unveil the billboards in defiance of a ruling by the MPAA that the billboards were unsuitable for public viewing due to their graphic depiction of torture.

As a result of the ruling, Captivity will not be eligible for consideration by the ratings board until on or after May 1, and will be given no priority scheduling at that time.

'The sanctions in this case are severe because this was an unacceptable and flagrant violation of MPAA rules and procedures,' Marilyn Gordon, the MPAA's senior vice president of advertising, said. 'It is now up to After Dark Films to restore good faith with the MPAA.'

All films that seek an MPAA rating are required to clear promotional materials that will be displayed, whether in print, on television, in theatres or online.

The film, directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields, The Mission), the film stars Elisha Cuthbert and Daniel Gillies as a couple who wake up to find themselves imprisoned in a cellar.