‘Punch’ FrightFest 2023 Review: A Surprisingly Compelling British Slasher Movie


British slashers are few and far between, so audiences were thrilled when Punch premiered at FrightFest. Set in a small English seaside town, the film introduces viewers to Mr. Punch, a maniac wearing a Punch and Judy mask, who brutally clobbers anyone he encounters with a baseball bat. Needless to say, you certainly would not want to encounter this particular seaside attraction while you chow down on your fish and chips. Writer and director Andy Edwards, who also helmed Ibiza Undead and Graphic Desires, clearly wanted to create a decidedly British take on the popular slasher genre. Overall, he manages to create a somewhat uneven but largely enjoyable entry into the popular slasher mythos.

We’re quickly introduced to Frankie (Alina Allison), a young woman who desperately wants to escape from her seaside hometown. She decides to spend a few more days in the town where she grew up before she finally leaves for good so that she can say goodbye to her friends. But her bittersweet farewell soon turns into a nightmare when Mr. Punch shows up and starts murdering anyone who gets in his way. This results in Frankie’s final goodbyes to the people she cares about being more permanent than she would have liked.

Allison gives her performance as Frankie everything she had and sells Frankie as a bored and frustrated young woman who clearly wants more out of life while also feeling constrained by the limits of her small and uneventful hometown. Faye Campbell also makes a memorable appearance as Frankie’s best friend, Holly, who similarly hopes for a more significant life. We also learn early on that both characters were left-wing vegans, but the film thankfully never presents them in a stereotypical manner, as many smaller independent films often do.

Also Read: ‘Piaffe’ Review: Fetishes And Unruly Bodies Meet In New Equine Arthouse Horror

On the other hand, Macaulay Cooper shows up as Daryl, Frankie’s on-and-off boyfriend. While he initially appears to be a useless slacker, Daryl eventually proves to be capable of courage and selfless acts when things spiral out of control. You almost feel guilty for looking down on him in the first place. But the same cannot be said for Frankie’s mother, Julia (Kierston Wareing), whose antiquated views create a stark contrast with her daughter’s more modern sensibilities. Julia is clearly intended to be a representation of the polar opposite of her daughter, and Wareing successfully manages to create a portrait of a woman who refuses to move along with the times. Familiar horror actress Dani Thompson also makes a memorable cameo appearance as a bartender who recounts the legend of Mr. Punch to her patrons.

A disappointing aspect of Punch is the blandness of the kills, as Mr. Punch usually just batters people with his baseball bat. Sure, he snaps a guy’s neck in one scene and throws a woman onto a fire in another, but there are no truly unique or inventive kills on display. On top of that, Mr. Punch also speaks with a voice changer which was supposed to make him sound like an actual Punch and Judy puppet. But his ridiculously high-pitched voice quickly becomes tiresome, and often difficult to understand. While Mr. Punch clearly has potential as a slasher villain, his depiction here leaves something to be desired. We can only hope the planned sequels will tone down the character’s more tiresome qualities while also presenting him with more inventive ways to slay his victims.

Also Read: ‘How To Kill Monsters’ FrightFest 2023 Review: An Instant Cult Classic

The limited budget also prevented any large set pieces from being presented to viewers, so we’re instead treated to long sequences of Mr. Punch stalking his victims around deserted amusement arcades and other seaside attractions. These scenes are no doubt suspenseful at times, but they quickly become repetitive and tiresome. However, there are some hugely impressive underwater shots of Mr. Punch fighting for his life after he was knocked off a pier.

As often seen in slashers, the police are certainly not presented in a positive light. Edwards clearly wants to include a message about not trusting those in positions of authority. At the very least, Mr. Punch never pretends to be a decent person, whereas the police officers in the film clearly abuse the trust placed in them. Although this message was abruptly introduced in the third act, it still leaves you questioning your views towards those whom you are expected to depend on.

While it certainly has its flaws, Punch still proves to be a memorable and thought-provoking entry into the minuscule plethora of British slasher movies. Fans of the slasher subgenre will certainly need to seek it out when it eventually receives a general release. While it lacks any truly original kills, the film still presents viewers with believable and sympathetic characters. Although it primarily focuses on people being clobbered to death by Mr. Punch, this was also a bold and unique film that has a great deal to say about the world around us.



Fans of slasher movies will not want to miss Mr. Punch’s first cinematic outing.


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter