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Troma. Just the name gets a reaction. And personally, I admire the Troma films. Very few people embrace their exploitation roots with such vigor, esteem and originality. Because when you think about it, it's hard to pinpoint what Troma films are. They're comedies, sure, but they are also horror films, action flicks, sci-fi, cult films and living, breathing comic books. Personally, I think you have to be a real stick in the mud to not enjoy Troma films.
But there's a big difference between Troma's in-house productions and their acquisitions. Troma productions have given us THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, TERROR FIRMER and SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. Troma acquisitions have given us BLOOD HOOK, REDNECK ZOMBIES and UNSPEAKABLE. To be fair, Trey Parker's classic CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL was also an acquisition. But they can't all be winners, that's the point I'm trying to get across here.
SURF NAZIS MUST DIE is a Troma acquisition and it doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Alfred Packer or "The Snowman Song." The film starts with a title and premise tailor-made for Tromaniacs and fumbles the ball at every conceivable turn.
What we should get is BLUE CRUSH meets TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, with a touch of CLASS OF 1984 thrown in for good measure. What we get is a plodding, straight-faced mess that seems endless, even at 83 minutes.
We open up in the near future, after a catastrophic earthquake has destroyed much of Los Angeles. At the beach, the Surf Nazis rule. The Surf Nazis are a group of thugs in Body Glove clothing adorned with swastikas. They like to talk about the fascist revolution and throw their weight around. Beyond that, I have no idea what their purpose is.
There is a minimal plot here. For most of the film, the Surf Nazis just go about their business. Meanwhile, Eleanor Washington (Gail Neely) is being relocated to a nursing home since her home was destroyed in the quake. She's a tough-talking woman who doesn't really need taking care of. But she's in a financial bind and doesn't want her grandson to worry. She corrupts the residents and makes the nurses' life a living hell. She's content doing that until the Surf Nazis make the mistake of picking a fight with her grandson.
Troma's reputation combined with the cover art, title, premise and just about everything else would like you to believe that SURF NAZIS MUST DIE is a comedy. But it isn't. To be honest, I'm not sure what it is. If it's a comedy, it goes out of it's way to avoid being funny. The retirement home scenes seem to be the only ones meant to illicit any laughter. If it's something else, it fails in that as well.
It's as if director Peter George, a real no-talent, understands that most camp films succeed because they weren't out-and-out comedies. Unfortunately, since he still seems to aim in the camp direction, he fails to realize that any laughs must be unintentional. The only explanation I can think of is that George has intentionally made a film engineered to get unintentional laughs. How much of a paradox is that?
So, the film is meant to be taken somewhat seriously. Fine. Serious is what you want, serious is what you'll get. Let's deconstruct, shall we?
SURF NAZIS fails to leave a positive impression because the Surf Nazis fail to leave a negative one. Quake or no quake, I kept wondering why law enforcement of any kind didn't come out to the beach and kick their goose-surfing asses. These are not the engineers of the Fourth Reich. They are thugs who show almost no organization whatsoever. And yet they are the terrors of South California? Shelly Long and her Troop Beverly Hills could even give them a tough fight.
Not that the filmmakers want you to believe that. They want you to think that this is a well-organized force. Which must be the reason we get to sit in on so many meetings. The Surf Nazis love to talk, talk, talk. The only thing they like to do more is bitch, bitch, bitch. One Surf Nazi will badmouth another Surf Nazi. One Surf Nazi will talk about ethnic cleansing. Another will argue about that, etc.
This is what most of the film is. Sound boring? It is. Sound irritating? Well, if Neely didn't decide to beat down these guys, I was about to jump through the screen and do it myself.
And what about these guys? The characters are pretty predictable. The only one with any clout in the genre is Dawn Wildsmith (HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, WARLORDS, STAR SLAMMER) from Fred Olen Ray's repertoire company. Unfortunately, this film doesn't have the sense of fun contained in Ray's productions, so here she just plays the loyal Nazi skank.
Adolf (Barry Brenner) looks like El Debarge and says everything with all the conviction of a recording. Michael Sonye (ROLLER BLADE WARRIORS) plays Mengele as a gay surfer who just likes to annoy people and keep a stiff upper lip about everything. The rest of the group are disposable. Some are lucky enough to have characters fleshed out enough to almost be stereotypes.
The only person in the cast worth mentioning is Gail Neely. Here we have a non-traditional heroine in the strictest sense. She's a tough-talking, no-nonsense gal, sure. But she's also a heavy-set African American woman in her fifties. The opportunities are endless here, and Neely does the most with what she's given. But even that does not amount to much. Who can tell me that a franchise of Mama Washington adventures wouldn't be entertaining in more talented hands?
To top it all off, Peter George can't manage to handle even the most basic directing chores. Action, special effects, all handled horribly. The surfing footage isn't even very good. All this continues through from the beginning to the chase at the end, which begs the question, "Can you really surf away from someone?"
Horror Express has seen my gentler side recently. But truth is, I write a lot of negative reviews, and I'm not going to start apologizing now. Usually, I try to find any kind of silver lining. But Neely's performance aside, I can think of absolutely nothing to recommend SURF NAZIS MUST DIE. It isn't funny, even unintentionally, because it is not entertaining. And how are you going to live up to cult status if you can't even maintain our attention?
Forgive the pun, but I just have to say it - SURF NAZIS MUST DIE is a complete wipeout.