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“The VelociPastor” is an understated character study with a lot to say, subtly mining pathos from small moments of everyday life.
Just kidding. “The VelociPastor” is a movie about a priest who sometimes turns into a dinosaur and fights ninjas. It’s one where that priest, upon being told that he had been a dinosaur while he blacked out, responds completely straight-faced, “I don’t believe you. Dinosaurs never existed, and even if they did, I don’t transform into one.”
If this appeals to you, then you’ll love “The VelociPastor”. If it doesn’t, then you won’t, and you’re probably dead inside. And also outside. Dead from a velociraptor attack. Or at least an awkwardly bulgy Paper-Mache-looking dinosaur suit bumping into you, and then some red stuff that’s supposed to be blood spontaneously appearing in your mouth and splashing against a nearby wall. Which is kind of how fights generally go in this movie. And also what probably happened to your soul.
The plot goes something like this: Father Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) sees his parents die, which is the inciting incident for him to go to China where he gets an artifact from a dying woman, and upon returning home, turns into a dinosaur.
He kills some criminals attacking Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), a hooker and premed/law student who’s a good person in with some bad people. We’re 12 minutes in so far.
Director/Writer/ Brendan Steere (who has made one other feature, a more serious horror film called “Animosity”) knows exactly how absurd it all is. In an interview with journalist Meagan Meehan, Cohan said, “Brendan doesn’t yell “CUT”…ever. So, we would just go until either he or someone else behind the camera started dying laughing.” That makes so much sense when you watch it.
The best classic B-movie actors completely commit to their roles, no matter how bad the dialogue, how implausible the situation, how cheap the monster looks, or how bad their acting chops are.
The cast is excellent at channeling this acting style. Greg Cohan (acclaimed for his role as Press #3 in some episode of the TV show “Dynasty”) solidly anchors the movie as the eponymous pastor, overcommitting beautifully.
Alyssa Kempinski (widely heralded for her role as Girl in this one episode of the show “FBI”) earnestly matches Cohan’s hammy intensity beat for beat. Daniel Steere, the director’s father (showered with awards for his performance as Villager 2 in his son’s freshman thesis film “MONSTER! or, The Re-Dead”), is perfectly miscast as Father Stewart, Doug’s mentor. His uniformly matter-of-fact delivery, combined with his amazing mustache ,makes him a hilariously unconvincing priest.
Much of the film’s humor comes from the ridiculous plot and dialogue played completely straight, with a backdrop of the cheapest visuals you’ve ever seen. The costumes make all the characters look like they’re playing dress-up. Converse sneakers peek out from underneath Cohan’s priest robes. A fake arm prop is reused throughout the film when someone gets mauled by the dinosaur.
There are some touches that are more straightforwardly comedic too. In one standout sequence, Doug and Carol have a conversation in her bedroom the morning after he saves her, him thinking they had had sex (“Was it bad?” asks Doug, to which Carol responds “it was… weird,” Kempinski hilariously understated). In another, after Doug and Carol hatch a plan, they high five, breaking the faux-intense tone.
After someone is blown into red goo, a bystander deadpans, “I don’t think we can do anything for her now, she’s too far gone.” In most movies, this type of comedic tone mixing wouldn’t work. But it’s held together here by the enthusiasm of the filmmakers, throwing in anything they think is fun.
It feels like the fully realized version of the movies I used to make in middle school, running around with my friend in the backyard and making ourselves laugh.
That gleeful energy extends to the soundtrack, which is made up of high energy punk. It doesn’t complement the story in any way, but it’s fun and Steere liked it, so why the hell not? In fact, a lot of the movie can be summed up that way: Why the hell not?
I watched “The VelociPastor” with a group of friends, and that was definitely the right way to do it. There was a running commentary, pointing out hilarious details, reliving funny parts, and most of all, laughing hysterically.
There’s a certain solidarity that comes from experiencing “The VelociPastor” together, knowing a movie like this exists, and being able to crack each other up with a single apathetically thrown ninja punch in the air. Plus it’s completely rewatchable, since half the dialogue gets drowned in laughter.
“The VelociPastor” is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and various Video On Demand platforms.