Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear! Absurdist schlock you'll love!
A bad film ain’t necessarily…bad…if you dig. Maybe it has a little something that sends it into the schlock zone. So absurd it deposits saliva into your blood.
In the Christian-themed surf movie, Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear, a kid has to learn to surf again after being freaked out in big waves. The ghost of daddy helps him back in.
The film screened for a week in LA. Now it’s gone.
But has it gone? Or is it an instant classic?
Recently, Vice magazine interviewed the director, writer and star of the film Douglas Burke.
Douglas Burke, Surfer’s auteur, has crafted a fascinatingly absurd drama about a boy who must rediscover the courage to surf again with the help of the ghost of his father. His real-life son Sage plays the titular “Surfer.” Burke plays his father, “Father of Surfer.” The movies has overt Christian themes, including multiple oral tellings of Bible stories. It also has a dead whale, some truly incredible green screen, and one of the most uncomfortable portrayals of a mentally incapacitated person ever committed to film.
Around the midpoint of the movie, Burke delivers a full-throated monologue, moaning and shouting, “God put me together with squid and electricity! We don’t have a lot of time… I’m gonna melt back into the ocean. I wasn’t supposed to FEEL!!” He pauses, then vomits black liquid as his son watches in silent horror.
The monologue lasts a full ten minutes before his scene partner, his son, speaks. This is within a 12 minute single take, with no cuts or camera movement. Later, Burke told me it’s the longest single-take movie monologue ever. It feels like it.
I pointed out that, at the Surferscreening I attended (which Burke spent sitting directly behind me), the audience was laughing throughout the movie.
Burke suggested that the audience might have been laughing because they were in awe of his performance. “I think people at some point have to laugh if the actor is doing a good job,” Burke reasoned. “It’s going to make the viewer feel a little bit insane, and start to laugh a little bit. But there’s also a lot of deep, deep tragedy.” Burke explained that his inspirations were more classical than modern, citing Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. “I love to write poetry and perform it as though I’m on the middle of some Shakespearean stage,” he said. “No other producer would ever let me do that.”
One scene features Burke shouting another monologue to his son in front of a dead whale. “That’s a real whale,” he told me.
Burke read online that a whale carcass would be washing to shore near them, so he quickly pulled together a shoot for the same day. “It stunk. It smelled. Imagine the worst sour milk you’ve ever smelled. That’s what it smelled like.”
“To me, it was a gift from God,” he added.