Then the sexual revolution had to come along and spoil all the seething, repressed fun for everybody. But from 1959, starting with Gidget until sputtering out with The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini in 1966, the genre of beach films preserved the fresh, fleshy delights of these wet, white teenagers on celluloid for an eternity.
Charles Busch, the legendary drag performer responsible for the off-Broadway hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom among others, obviously locked himself away with each and every one of these seven acknowledged surf movies until he absorbed every hoary cliché in preparation for the creation of his long-running play, Psycho Beach Party. After making adjustments to the plot (the ritual pubic-hair shavings have become murders), Busch has brought this parody to the screen.
The tale follows the tomboyish Chicklet (Lauren Ambrose) as she struggles to infiltrate the male-dominated subculture of surfing and catch Starcat, the dude of her dreams. Her quest is complicated by her multiple-personality disorder (which causes her to suddenly morph into a sultry dominatrix or a trash-talking homegirl), not to mention the fact that someone is knocking off her pals, one by one.
Though production values in this campy romp are often excruciatingly low (in one beach sequence the camera swings wildly to reveal the work lights), its good-looking cast of veteran television teens seem to be having a blast deconstructing the homoerotic, sadomasochistic, mentally disturbed subtext of the deceptively frothy surf genre.
It's all great fun, but oddly and unfortunately, the only person of color onscreen is the Caucasian Chicklet's black-chick impression. One could argue that this is in keeping with the original movies themselves--which were as white as Wonder Bread--but it seems lazy and irresponsible for this talented satirist to perpetuate this racism instead of skewering it.