There are sci-fi movies, horror films, and comedies, then there are sci-fi horror comedies, and then there’s The VelociPastor — one of the wildest genre-bending movies ever made. That’s right, you read that title correctly: The VelociPastor, a movie that perfectly rides the line between schlock and B-movie masterpiece that it has to be seen to be believed. This 2017 banger feels like a so-bad-it’s-good movie, but intentionally steers in that direction so hard to where it becomes a staggering achievement of resourceful filmmaking genius. This movie throws any apprehension about budgetary issues and goes off to make the wildest action sci-fi horror comedy that it possibly can.
Director Brendan Steere and his team lean hard into their restrictions, poking fun at the fact that they’re going to bring every idea that they have to life, all with a micro-budget charm. It’s a bombastic miracle of genre-fusing in the indie movie stratosphere and should be studied by aspiring filmmakers everywhere as a reminder that if you have the right amount of heart and self-awareness with your project, your audience will go with you anywhere. Go with The VelociPastor, and enjoy the bountiful feast that it provides.
‘The VelociPastor’ is a Mix-Mashed Movie Masterpiece
The VelociPastor not only acts as a wonderful mix-mash of genres, but it’s also a smorgasbord of different movements in film. You’ve got some superhero tropes sprinkled in, a bit of grindhouse, some ’90s romantic comedy-isms, and more. It seems as though Steere took the opportunity of making this movie to cram every genre and film movement that he admires and put them into one, culminating in something of a genre gumbo. Add to the fact that VelociPastor aspires to deliver an epic plot with only tens of thousands of dollars in its pocket, and you’ve got one heck of a unique experience.
The film’s plot follows Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), a priest who begins struggling with his faith after the death of his parents. In the wake of his grief, Jones takes a trip to China, where he is cut by an ancient artifact, magically granting him the ability to turn into a dinosaur. Doug quickly gets his abilities under control, eventually teaming up with a sex worker named Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) with the shared desire to fight crime. From there, they duke it out with petty criminals, gangsters, and an underground group of drug-dealing ninjas. If that’s not enough to hook you, I don’t know what is.
‘VelociPastor’ is Not “So-Bad-It’s-Good,’ It’s Just GREAT!
So straight out of the gate, before diving head first into the world of The VelociPastor, if you only know the film’s general plot synopsis, you might think that you’re in for a so-bad-it’s-good beautiful disaster type of movie. There are some drawbacks to that expectation, though. A so-bad-it’s-good movie comes from when a filmmaker aspires to make a great piece of art, only they don’t just make a few mistakes, they fall so hard on their face that they end up with something so completely mishandled that it becomes entertaining. Think of movies like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, a project that aspired to be a thrilling drama, or Birdemic: Shock and Terror, an ode to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds — one with clipart-like birds and a fantastically oblivious script. So-bad-it’s-good movies have no idea that they are that. The VelociPastor, on the other hand, takes its quality, wears it as a badge of honor, and runs.
The Best Display of Self-Awareness… Ever?
The beautiful genius of Brendan Steere’s work here is that it embraces the idea that on the surface, there is no “beautiful genius.” The VelociPastor is shot on cheap digital cameras, filmed in backyards, always uses the second to last thing you’d expect to achieve a visual effect, and has its tongue deep into its cheek. Steere wants you to laugh at the movie, desperately. He’s laughing with you the whole way to the bank. Sometimes with these types of projects, a filmmaker will think they’re going for knowing self-parody, but really you just end up with a self-conscious film. The VelociPastor is like a kid who stands up with a huge grin and farts in the middle of class, both to look like a total goof and also the most confident person in the room. There’s a knowingness to this entire movie, one that Steere is in full control of.
This isn’t to say the movie is some kind of scam though. It’s not like you’re walking into The Godfather and you walk out with The Godthumb (yes, this is real). You know what you’re getting with The VelociPastor as soon as you stumble across its name, but it only gets better from there. The movie begins as a tragedy for Doug Jones, but quickly ends up spanning continents, throws zero-budget gore on the screen (which is way more fun than you might think), gets ridiculously mystical, features violent monster transformations, and brings hoards of enemies to the titular velocipastor’s feet. It’s wonderful. While some movies would do these things and try to be funny while doing so, they either wouldn’t know how to commit to the bit or would stumble in their efforts and provide a movie that ends up more insecure than anything. Every moment feels sincere. The movie comes from the most genuine place, one that desperately wants to entertain its audience, yet isn’t worried about its abilities in doing so. The VelociPastor kicks ass and knows it.
Being charming on no budget isn’t the only thing that will lead a D-movie to victory though, you have to have memorable characters and dialogue, or else all you have is an empty-calorie movie experience. Thankfully, the film regularly tosses out ridiculous lines and exchanges, one after the other. There’s a fantastic moment when our lead protagonists realize they need each other, with Carol desperately exclaiming “I don’t know much about God,” only for Doug to hopelessly reply “I don’t know much about dinosaurs.” Or the one that precedes that conversation, when Doug mistakes Carol’s vague account of the night he first turned into a dinosaur and saved her life for an awkward story about them maybe having sex the night before. And don’t forget why they call him Frankie Mermaid (Fernando Pacheco De Castro) — “because you’re swimmin’ in bitches!” Wonderful.
There are no movies like The VelociPastor. You might think there are, but there aren’t. It so wonderfully rides the line between being low-budget trash and a masterful comedy that it comes out its very own beast. There’s apparently a sequel on the way, titled The VelociPastor 2, still starring Cohan and Kempinski, but this time directed by the original movie’s producer Jesse Gouldsbury. While it might not exactly be Steere who’s… steering the ship… at least it’s somebody who was heavily involved with the original. Instead, Steere will be directing the spiritual sequel, Outback Dracula, a movie about a “psychic, lesbian schoolteacher teams up with the world’s greatest adventurer to find her missing girlfriend and to defeat Dracula and his Golden Army of the Undead.” Both of those movies sound fantastic, but no matter how fun they are, they’ll never live up to the classic that started it all — The VelociPastor.