The VelociPastor is the kind of movie where despite knowing for a fact that it could never live up to its title, you still soldier ahead hoping against hope that you can tell people that they need to see The VelociPastor. You want to name drop it at parties so everyone knows that you’re cool, you’re fun, you’re hip, you get it. You want to love the movie so badly, to make it a part of who you are as a person. You can taste the need on your lips, but alas you must admit the unholy truth:
The VelociPastor just isn’t very good.
Director: Brendan Steere
Release Date: August 13, 2019 (VOD, DVD)
From its opening proclaiming that The VelociPastor is “Rated X by an all Christian jury,” we see a hard lean into 70’s exploitation complete with pimps, the occult, and ninjas. It has the right title card, the right leather-clad biker look of its hero. Occasionally, the framing and editing even match the style. For brief glimpses you see the satire The VelociPastor wanted to be. Of course, this means that more often than not it falls either just short or far below its own goals.
When pastor Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) watches his parents die in a horrific car explosion (which cuts to an empty road with “VFX Burning Car” typed over the screen), he’s sent off to China to escape the tragedy and regain his shaken faith. He ends up in some woods around New Jersey or somewhere that the screen-text promises us is China. Here, a Chinese woman crosses his path with an ancient artifact. She’s killed by ninjas, but Doug takes the artifact, which cuts his hand and begins his grisly transformation into--
Something that looks way more like a T-Rex than a raptor, to be honest.
Saying The VelociPastor has a shoe-string budget would make shoe strings feel pretty cheap, and that’s a clear fact which Steere and company lean into with great glee. If you’ve watched the trailer, then you know that you’ve eaten sandwiches that cost more than this movie, and I’m not going to get down on it for that. Making fun of a movie with an obvious low budget for not having a bigger budget would be a waste of everyone’s time. That said, shots often lack the creativity, ingenuity, and bent toward trippy experimentation that the no-budget films of the past The VelociPastor seeks to replicate have leaned on to cover for missing funds.
There’s a scene in which prostitute Carol (Alyssa Kempinsk) meets with her pimp Frankie the Mermaid (Fernando Pacheco De Castro) to discuss where she’s to patrol that night. This scene should at least take place during dusk, but it’s shot in broad daylight. Of course shooting at night can be expensive and difficult, but at least use the 70’s staple of a blue filter for day-for-night shots or just shoot at night but leave the lightning ugly. Even for a movie as found-dad’s-camcorder-in-the-basement-with-some-old-Haloween-costumes as this, there’s no excuse for what feels like a downright lack of creativity.
Sometimes the pieces do fit together, though, and you see these perfect snapshots of the movie it wants to be. Perhaps these moments are nothing more than coin flips of good luck in the editing room, but they can be striking. When Frankie the Mermaid (which he’s named, because he’s swimming in bitches) rattles off his litany of murders and drug deals to Pastor Doug during confession--including being paid to kill Doug’s parents!--Doug rages out and punches a dinosaur claw (I can’t say with a scientifically clean conscious that it was indeed a velociraptor’s claw) through the grate and slashes the pimp’s throat. The lighting, the framing, the ridiculousness played just straight enough all works to make a delightful and engaging moment. The ninja clan’s conspiracy to get the world addicted to drugs and then take the drugs away, so the addicts would have to turn to the church for recovery, and thus the global religion would become Christianity is exactly the sort of absurd motive the villains of some bargain basement ninja VHS would have. Like a prehistoric beast struggling within a man of God, a legitimately good movie rages just beneath the surface of The VelociPastor.
The rest is a bit half-hearted. There’s a focus on jokes that are hammered too hard for my taste. Several shots of a white ninja (who has his own twist that’s pretty fun and befitting a satire of 70’s exploitation) trying and failing at an evil laugh would be cute as an aside within the movie, but Steere takes real time to sit down and focus on this laugh with several different takes as if to announce that this is the joke, the entire joke. This is where it begins and ends. That guy’s laughing weird. That’s it. It’s frustrating when the time could be used to have the ninjas discuss more of their inane drug running or the weird ancient relic or anything, but no. This time is dedicated to the laugh and the laugh alone.
The soundtrack is far and away the worst part of the film with this low-rent alt-rock that never fits any scenes. In the 70’s they were using whatever old Casio keyboard someone happened to have lying around, so there’s no excuse. There’s no need to hurt us with this music, but they do with the bad soundtrack on full display during a sex scene between Doug and Carol. The VelociPastor becomes a full-on alt-rock music video, which is to say both grating on the eyes and ears. The screen splits into multiple shots while the borders between pulse with seizure lights, and you’re just kind of forced to sit there and endure until the song is finally over and the movie can continue. It’s painful, and for the hundredth time the exact kind of movies this is trying to satirize are replete with weird, unrealistic, and amusing sex scenes that I imagine would have taken way less time and effort in the editing room than what we got.
I want so badly to say that I liked The VelociPastor, but to say that would be a lie, and I only lie on my taxes. Budget or no budget, it’s still often underwhelming with just a few hints to show where everything could have gone right and made this something truly worthy of recommendation. Maybe Steere could take a second attempt, a remake--The VelociPastor: T-Rexurrection.
Yeah. I’d watch that.