Back in the ’80s, punks were awesome and also threatening to the general populace. Their anarchist tendencies, their need to express different identities and buck the system, and their unique appearances were scary; who knew what a punk would do, when he didn’t care about moral values or keeping his hair nice and neat. Maybe he’s got a switchblade in his boot!
Punk Vacation, a cult action film from Stanley Lewis released in 1987, uses this premise and the stereotypes of punk culture to craft a plot about said punks crashing a small town. It’s incendiary and fueled by paranoia and fairly fun all around, mostly because Lewis and the actors don’t take the movie too seriously throughout.
The film stars Stephen Fiachi as Steve Reed, a cop with the local police force who’s sort of bumbling and takes on mostly mundane cases like a false alarm at a diner. He’s dating the owner’s daughter, Lisa (Sandra Bogan), though, so I don’t think he minds that much. Unfortunately, one false alarm too many causes a real emergency to be missed when a biker gang of punks attack the diner owner after he threatens off one of them from his vending machine.
One of the punks is run down in the action by Steve, so the leader of the gang, Ramrod (Roxanne Rogers), vows to get back at the town in any way possible. They’ll strike from the bushes, and hide out on the mountains, and generally live out in the wild like most punks usually do. These guys are the typical leather-jacket clad honyocks who paint their faces with crazy makeup, do their hair in mohawks and color it with dye, and carry around shotguns and bootstrap knives.
They’re on vacation and looking for mischief, too, so when the redneck locals want a war, they’re more than up for fighting. Much of Punk Vacation is a setup for a climactic showdown between the local redneck gun nuts in town and the punkers up on the mountain, both parties using guerrilla warfare and generally a lack of smarts all around. Also thrown in is a short kidnapping of Lisa to get Steve riled up for battle.
Punk Vacation is fairly low budget, and though the punks are stereotypically bad, the movie is much more entertaining than one might guess. There’s nothing too outstanding about any one part of the cast or the action, but Punk Vacation is one of those fun movies that’s easy to laugh at and nice to reminisce about.
It does suffer from some strange pacing; towards the end of the film, extended scenes of dancing, staring, and tromping through brush affect the tension of the mounting battle. Punk Vacation also switches its tone after the initial victimization of the diner owner – that scene is played mostly seriously, but the rest of the movie focuses heavily on semi-comedic antics on purpose.
The film brings up an interesting juxtaposition between the freewheeling rednecks and the punks, however, and it’s probably the single best thing about Punk Vacation. As the two parties battle to take the small town, it becomes clear that the rednecks are very nearly as dangerous as the punks in different ways, and Lewis even attempts to give the punks credit for fighting back with non-violence, at least at first.
Overall, Punk Vacation is an enjoyable throwback. However, it’s not going to attract a number of die-hard proponents of the film, simply because it does things competently well but never exceeds expectations or cliches. But the movie is put together in a great package by Vinegar Syndrome on Blu-Ray, with a quality transfer and a few special features. One thing I was left wondering about our punkers: why are they on vacation? It doesn’t seem like they have jobs, so from what are they vacationing?
Blu-Ray Features: Punk Vacation comes in a two-disc set, with a Blu-Ray disc and a standard edition of the film. There’s a gallery of film stills included on each disc, although the presentation goes a little too fast for my taste. On the second disc, there are also two interviews: one 17-minute Q&A with Stephen Fiachi, the other a 13-minute one with stuntman Steve Rowland. Both give interesting accounts of filming and the problems with the low budget production, and they even touch on the other film they both worked on, Nomad Riders. That film is also included on the second disc, giving this set even more reason for purchase: it’s tough to find a good copy of this obscure film.