FrightFest 2023 - Interview with Andy Edwards director of Punch

A chat with director who also brought us Ibiza Dead

We've already chatted to Punch's main star Alina Allison so we spoke to its director Andy Edwards about this blood-splattered slasher.

NYX: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

AE: Absolutely! I’m showing my age here but as a teenager I was always renting the likes of Evil Dead, Braindead and Bad Taste on VHS from the video shop. I’d had childhood dreams of being a film director from a young age, but those were the films that showed me you didn’t need Hollywood budgets to make something cool. And maybe,just maybe, someone growing up in the suburbs of Birmingham rather than the hills of LA could do it too one day…

NYX: Where did the idea for Punch come from?

AE: It came from the unionof two separate ideas. The first was to create a “British” slasher film. I hadall sorts of terrible ideas (Killer in a Union Jack outfit anyone?) And secondly,I’d always loved the setting of a seaside town in winter and wanted to capturethat melancholy vibe. As soon as I put the two together it all clicked, and MrPunch jumped out as the obvious villain.

NYX: Was it written with a cast in mind?

AE: Not for any of our leads - and we went with three actors making their feature film debuts for our three main characters. Once we started casting though, I did bring in a few people I’d worked with before, such as Dani Thompson (Grindsploitation), Jack Fairbanks (Midnight Peepshow) and May Kelly (Graphic Desires) And when I sat down with casting director Aisling Knight to figure out who our more experienced actors would be, I described the character of Julia (Frankie’smother) as being “a bit like the mother in Fish Tank” - so we decided to chance our arm and ask Kierston Wareing herself if she was interested. And she said yes,so that was a bit of dream casting for me.

NYX: Who designed the mask?

AE: I drew some very basic sketches for it, and passed them on to a company called Rubber Johnnies based in Ireland, and then they came up with the 3D version, and then between us we tweaked it. In a slasher movie, getting the mask right is half the job, and I think we’ve come up with something genuinely creepy.

NYX: What was it like shooting at night and on location?

AE: I’m a night owl, so I love a night shoot. But obviously they come with all sorts of extra difficulties, especially when that location is an old boat yard, and its zero degrees and starting to snow. Its the reality of indie film, and you can all laugh about it afterwards, but at the time it’s pretty tough going! The locations are a major part of this film. I wanted to show all the fun of the seaside - so we shot on location on piers, amusement arcades, chip shops to getas much in as possible. Most of it was shot in Hastings, with a few days of pick-ups in Clacton-on-Sea.

NYX: Alina Allison who plays Frankie really does go through it doesn’t she? How did she prepare for such an emotional role?

AE: She sure does go through it! In the auditions we had to check all our potential Frankie’s  were ok with the physical side of it as well as the emotional demands - her character does A LOT of running! On set it was a case of ensuring that whilst it looked like she was going through some horrific things, in reality she was being looked after and in fact having a lovely time-especially as she’s in nearly every scene of the movie! On horror films you want to ensure as much as possible that the horrors are all on-camera, and that in-between takes the atmosphere is friendly and supportive. Luckily, even though it was her first feature, Alina took everything in her stride and was more than up for whatever challenge we threw at her. She was also hungry to learn - not just from other actors but from the crew as well about their roles.By the end of the film, she could have easily done my job!

NYX: Do you have a favourite death scene?

AE: Probably the scene with the bride (played by May Kelly) It’s horrible, which I guess is what you want from a death scene!

NYX: Is it true you’d like this to become a new slasher franchise and if so, have you a story arc to run through?

AE: Yes, I’d love for Punch to become a slasher franchise. In an ideal world it would become the UK’s answer to Freddie, Jason et al, and spawn a bunch of sequels and spin-offs. I’ve got the next couple of films worked out in some detail, but after that,it’s quite open. The plan at the moment is to do two more with Punch in his UK seaside environment, exploring the mythology of the cult of Punch - and then take him outside of that and have him pop up around the world in various incongruous places. There’s also ideas brewing for an origin story, set in the Victorian era.

NYX: There’s an element of folk horror to this slasher, would you agree?

AE: Very much so! I knew when I was crafting a “quintessentially British” slasher, I wanted some element of folk horror in there, as it’s part of the fabric of British horror. And some of it came from our location too - Hastings has a pagan undercurrent running through it - from their Jack in the Green festival through to various local legends. You can’t help but tap into that atmosphere when you’re there.

NYX: Do you believe in any urban legends?

AE: I really enjoy them -and all of the hyper-local ones usually have an element of truth to them,however embellished its become. I also love that the tradition of ghost storiesround the fire is still alive and well in our modern world, with online virallegends popping up in places such as tik-tok. On a personal level, I don’tbelieve in anything supernatural, but in real life people are stranger and moreterrifying than anything us horror film makers can dream up, so I’m preparedthe believe the weirdest and worst about my fellow humans.

NYX: Will you be nervous when it has its world premiere at FrightFest 2023?

AE: Hell yes! I’ve been in this position a few times before with both Ibiza Undead (2016) and Midnight Peepshow (last year) premiering at Frightfest, but this film is even more of a personal one as I did so many roles on it. And it’s such a low budget indie,made by a small (but dedicated) crew, so the thought of it screening on the huge Cineworld Super-Screen to three hundred people is more terrifying than Mr Punch himself!

NYX: You’re a writer, director, producer, do you have favourite job that you do?

AE: I can easily tell you my least favourite job - producing! I’m a creative person (i.e. fairly disorganized)so I find the spreadsheets, tax returns and location releases etc etc pretty painful. It’s a necessary evil though for getting stuff done, so I’m currently teaching myself the entire process of producing, from the initial fund raising and pitching all the way through to distribution. My secret weapon is the fact I brought in Rebecca J Matthews to help me out as my co-producer - she’s only young but she’s got over 60 feature credits to her name, and she was invaluable to the process.

NYX: So, what are you working on at the moment?

AE: I’m currently in post on the third film from my production company (Paranoid Android Films) . It’s called Custom, and is a twisted erotic horror. This time I’m “just” producer on the film, and it’s written and directed by the very talented Tiago Teixeira. I know I just said I hate producing, but I’m passionate about helping other filmmakers get their stories told, so I worked with Tiago to get his debut feature made.For those FrightFesters who are attending on Sunday, we are presented a sneak peek at the film, just before the film “The Seeding”.

NYX: Andy Edwards, thank you very much.