The Movie Waffler First Look Review - SURFER: TEEN CONFRONTS FEAR | The Movie Waffler


Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear review
A teenage surfer confronts his fear of the ocean with the aid of his dead father's spirit.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Douglas Burke

Starring: Sage Burke, Douglas Burke, Gerald James, Analia Lenchantin, Alexander Angelikis, Mitch Feinstein

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear poster

Move aside Tommy Wiseau and Neil Breen. There's a new trash auteur in town: Douglas Burke, the writer/director/producer/composer/star of Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear. It's a film that has been circling my movie geek periphery like a hungry vulture for quite a while now, waiting until the day when I would finally lose the will to live and agree to watch and review it. That day has come, and I'm kicking myself for waiting this long.

I first started receiving press releases for Surfer back in 2018 when the movie began playing at random screenings in the US. In the years since it has maintained this strategy, having failed to pick up an official distributor. Some day it might come to your town. Contact your local political representative and see what they can do.

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear review

My reluctance to engage with Surfer for so long is down to my suspicion of any movie that markets itself as a "cult movie." A film doesn't get to call itself a cult movie; it has to earn that reputation. But in the past six years Surfer has certainly earned that designation. It's the very definition of a cult movie, one that has been seen by a tiny but devoted audience. Like that Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, few have seen Surfer, but those who have will never be the same again.

The plot is pretty simple. It's about a surfing teen who confronts fear. Sage, played by the director's son Sage Burke with all the enthusiasm of a teen roped into helping their dad clean out the attic, was a promising surfer with a love for the waves. Then he almost died when he caught a bad wave (I'm sure surfers have a specific term for this but despite living just down the road from one of the world's most revered surf spots, I know nothing about this culture). Since then Sage has been too terrified to get back in the sea, so instead he goes down to the beach and catches fish (I know nothing about fishing either but can you really catch fish that close to land?). One day he hooks his biggest catch, a human man, played by the director. The man claims to be the spirit of Sage's father, who passed away when he was a boy, and he's here to help guessed it, confront fear!

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear review

What ensues for the next 45 minutes is essentially a rambling monologue from Burke Senior that has to be witnessed to believe. His advice to his son is vaguely Christian, with lots of talk of God's energy and such, but it's like watching the insane ravings of a man who has invented his own religion. Every now and then he'll pause to cough up oil, because he was made from "squid and electricity" and he'll talk about how his hands feel like "hard jelly." "I wasn't meant to feel!!!" he screams incessantly. The highlight comes about 35 minutes in when Burke goes full on unhinged in a roughly 15 minute long unbroken static shot, resulting in the craziest acting performance since Eric Roberts' infamous "They took my thumb!!!" scene in The Pope of Greenwich Village. It's like watching Brian Blessed on acid. Words can't do justice to how entertaining and hilarious it is; I was literally on the floor, clutching my chest in pain. I though I was about to suffer a stroke. "This isn't how I'm supposed to go," I pleaded with my maker, but in hindsight there are few better ways to leave this mortal coil.

The second half of the movie takes a shift to a military hospital (don't ask) with a scene involving a doctor (Gerald James) taking a clearly mad patient's (Analia Lenchantin) blood pressure. It goes on forever, and if I was being kind I might compare it favourably to some of the weirder moments from Twin Peaks: The Return. It has that Lynchian quality of looking like our world but being just off enough to make us wonder if this was actually made by humans. Douglas Burke returns in a second role that is widely offensive but undeniably hilarious.

Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear review

After all the rambling about God and love in Burke's initial monologue, the movie takes a weirdly sinister turn late on with a character who comes out of nowhere and starts talking to Sage about how sometimes killing someone can be a good thing. Sage looks frankly terrified throughout and I suspect he may have a lot of therapy in his adult life to process what his father got him involved with as a teen.

If you're a well rounded, half-normal, rational human being, you're going to watch the first five minutes of Surfer and immediately think "Nope!" But for those of us who aren't wired correctly, this is a revelatory, spiritual experience. Douglas Burke is our new cult leader, and we will follow him into the sea.

To find upcoming screenings of Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear, visit

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