Punch - New Release Review
Director: Andy Edwards
Starring: Alina Allison, Faye Campbell, Jamie Lomas, Kierston Wareing, Mark Sears
Written by: Andy Edwards
Produced by: Andy Edwards, Rebecca J. Matthews
Cinematography by: Max Williams
Original Score by: Will Gold
A young girl celebrating her last night out in her hometown is stalked by a mysterious killer in a Mr Punch mask.
What begins as a fairly bog standard, flawed but spirited English seaside slasher gains some unexpected steam when it flirts with the idea of small town folklore.
Frankie has returned from University to her sleepy seaside town to help out her deeply troubled mother Julia. Although it's not fully explained, Frankie's mother may or may not have attempted to take her own life and having Frankie around again as her support system seems to be helping her greatly. But Frankie has plans to return to University and despite having a new man in her life Julia finds it difficult to hold back her resentment at Frankie's decision to leave again.
On her final night in town Frankie meets up with her on/off boyfriend Daryl and old friend Holly as they hit a party, get drunk and enjoy their last night together. As the trio chill out with new pal Tamaryn on the cobblestoned beach they are set upon by Mr. Punch, an anorak and mask wearing killer with a wooden club who is determined to not only make this their last night together but their last night full stop.
Andy Edwards uses the eeriness of the uncanny English seaside town to create a genuinely unsettling atmosphere. I loved all the beautiful imagery of the seaside regulars like the old fish and chip shops, the piers surrounded by seagulls, fishing boats, ice cream stops, amusements. All these familiar sights, accompanied by a gorgeous little modern folk musical number singing about the "ghosts of penny arcades", bring an instant, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia to anyone who has ever experienced such a location. But hidden amongst this blithesome scenery are missing person posters of teenagers. An ode to 'The Lost Boys' perhaps?
Much of the first half of the film is, rightly so, all about character and backstory building. We find out about Frankie's situation, her mother's issues are teased, her father's disappearance is hinted at, her general unhappiness at being back in her hometown is explored. We meet some other minor characters in town and there's a faint theme of male toxicity slowly building. Like all good slasher films, small pieces of the puzzle need to be put in place early on for the pay off to feel satisfactory. It doesn't quite happen here but there is a harbinger of doom character. His appearance feels a little too random for me and more of an homage to the genre itself.
Mr. Punch as a villainous killer is very good. It feels like he could be a great slasher franchise character and I really appreciated Edwards' attempts to create a lore behind the character, even though I think it ends up falling a bit flat. Although he is intensely creepy, mostly due to his high pitched voice and one-liners, the character did lack a little bit of screen presence. The first kill is entertaining but it's all a bit lacklustre after that, with an obvious lack of tension.
There's a thin line between comedy and horror and Mr. Punch walks that line like a finely trained tightrope acrobat. The original puppet that the character is based on is intrinsically nightmarish, similar to a clown in that regards, almost like a child molester luring naïve kids in by it's colourful expression then brutally declaring it's real intention. There's always been something fiercely creepy about a Punch and Judy Show and Andy Edwards does a really good job of showing that. I almost wish he went even further with it as it does end up feeling a bit generic.
'Punch' is a worthy English slasher that could've actually been so much more special if it spent more time building up tension before its kills. The killer has insane potential for a sequel if it gets a slightly bigger budget and I really liked the lore building effort so I hope this is explored further and to a deeper degree if we do get a sequel (which is promised at the end credits).
'Punch' is released on Digital January 22nd courtesy of Miracle Media