Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear Image

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear

By Josiah Teal | April 9, 2024

Written, directed, and scored by Douglas Burke, Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear has made its rounds on the midnight movie circuit since 2018. The film has earned more than a little buzz, garnering comparisons to Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic The Room. Even the website proudly displays a Wiseau comparison among the featured reviews.

The story follows a young surfer, Sage (Sage Burke), who is undertaking a theological journey of conquering fear and riding the big waves while discovering a possible military cover-up (but that subplot is almost a throwaway line). Before the events seen here, Sage was in a horrible surfing accident, shaking the young teen to his core. Now, he spends his days fishing by the shore and feeding the sea lions, longing for the ocean but fearful of the crashing waves.

Sage seems destined for a life without surfing until a stranger washes up on shore. This stranger turns out to be his deceased father (Douglas Burke). God has resurrected the dead man using “squids and electricity” in hopes of guiding Sage past his fears. What follows is a spiritual conversation through dreams and flashbacks of surfing, urging Sage to ride the waves once more.

God has resurrected the dead man using ‘squids and electricity’ in hopes of guiding Sage past his fears.”

About half of Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear is the Biblical pep talk from Sage’s father discussing why his son must get back on the board and into the ocean. It’s almost 50 minutes of Douglas Burke monologuing about why Sage should surf again, describing his resurrection, and telling Sage he must visit what turns out to be a secret military base. On paper, half a movie of dialogue in the same location could seem tedious, but here, it is entertaining from start to finish.

Both Burkes deliver the perfect midnight movie dialogue. The film takes on a very Wiseau quality, while Douglas Burke looks more than a little like Matt Hannon from Samurai Cop. The narrative is absurd to the bitter end, with performers always playing it straight, never winking or nodding to the audience. Lines are strange and surrealist and intercut with footage of a surfing child and upbeat rock n’ roll.

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear has all the makings of a cult film. From Plan 9 from Outer Space to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, cult films have this “lightning in a bottle” feeling pouring over every frame, and this has that in spades. It is brimming with quotable lines, sudden Bible references, and a briefly appearing Jason Bourne assassin-esque subplot (though more of a conversation than a subplot). Even when the story threatens to drag out, lines like “I wasn’t supposed to feel” and “I’m living in an iron maiden of pain, boy” re-engage the audience until the closing credits.

Only time will tell if Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear will be the next generation’s The Room. However, Douglas Burke has already proven this is a legitimate word-of-mouth cult hit. It has such a unique sensibility yet never shies away from being a crazy midnight film. The filmmaker’s love of cinema radiates through every frame. Writing, directing, composing, and starring in a movie does not happen without a genuine passion. His love for film shines in every odd dialogue choice or eccentric subplot. This is a film to be celebrated, and its champions have already been found.

For more information, visit the official Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear site.

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear (2018)

Directed and Written: Douglas Burke

Starring: Sage Burke, Douglas Burke, Gerald James, Analia Lechantin, Marian Tomas Griffin, Alexander Angelikis, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear Image

"…a legitimate word-of-mouth cult hit."

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