The great British seaside holiday started in the 18th century when the wealthy and well connected decided that “taking the waters” in spa towns such as Bath, Buxton, and Knaresborough was getting too boring and decided to move to the coast. Scarborough, on the Yorkshire coast, already had an inland spa and so was ideally suited for the move to the salty water. But it was Weymouth, in Dorset, that got a royal seal of approval when George III was advised to take a daily dip in the sea to help with his many and various illnesses. He went regularly between 1789 and 1805.
For the majority of the 19th century your typical seaside holiday usually consisted of a day trip. Working conditions meant that there was no such thing as paid holidays until the 1871 Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid days off each year. It wasn’t until 1939 that a week’s paid annual leave became law and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that a fortnight’s leave was commonplace. And it was the granting of paid holidays that led to the post war boom in coastal holiday resorts. Sadly that boom only lasted until the seventies when cheap air travel saw people jetting off to the guaranteed sunshine of Southern Europe, usually the Spanish Costas.
That’s The Way To Do It
But that exodus led to the decline of the British seaside resort. It was hard enough as it was seeing as how it was a desperately seasonal source of income; outside of a period between late spring through to early autumn the coastal towns are all but deserted. And that is the setting for Punch. An unnamed, run down seaside resort. The funfair, doughnut shop, arcades, chip shops, and, pretty much, everything else is shut and shuttered up. The opening scenes show the outstanding natural beauty of the coast until we come across a school girl standing on the edge of a cliff. She speaks with an unidentified man who makes her scream when she sees him.
Then we cut to the opening credits which show the deserted, desolate shops, stalls and other attractions. Interspersed with all the graffitied shutters are “Child Missing” posters…lots and lots of different children missing. Then we cut to a young woman, Frankie (Alina Allison), who is a grown up version of the girl on the cliff edge. She is talking to her mother, Julia (Kierston Wareing). Julia is not best pleased because Frankie is showing some independence and is daring to go away to university. Frankie has made arrangements to go up the next day and is heading off for a night out with her friend Holly (Faye Campbell).
He’s Behind You
Unfortunately for Frankie, Holly, and everyone else who’s out that night there is a psychopath wandering around wearing a Mr Punch mask and swinging a baseball bat. He is going around the town seemingly popping off anyone he meets. Oh…you may have noticed that I haven’t credited the actor playing Punch. Obviously that’s because the person behind the mask is someone you are introduced to earlier in the film and I don’t want to spoil the surprise! I’ll just say that I wasn’t totally surprised at the reveal but I wasn’t expecting what came after that!
So there we have Punch. It hides its low budget very well. I mean, I’m assuming it was a low budget affair but that is just because that’s what I’m used to being sent! It looks like we’re in a cheap, run down town but that’s because it is meant to! The acting is excellent. Given that I didn’t recognise any of the players I was pleasantly surprised. Andy Edwards wrote and directed and he did a fine job of both. Any complaints? Just the one…the voice of Punch in the film seemed to be made by an electronic device rather than the traditional swazzle. If that’s the only moan then it can’t be too bad!
Movie Grade: A-
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!