Velocipastor: a love letter


In mid-November 2019, I sat in on a session of News Publishing to convince Tyrone I would be fit for the class next semester. That visit would present me with two things which I would not understand the gravity of until long after.
First, a love for journalism and the next two years I would spend as a Basement Medicine staffer. Second — after a copy of the most recent issue was handed to me — an obsession with a film, bluntly titled, “the Velocipastor.”
Ari Erlbaum reviewed it in Volume 48, Issue 4. It was because of that review, and my preexisting affection for terrible movies, that I sent a synopsis to Nat — my then girlfriend — exclaiming that we had to watch it together. I had no idea that it would only be the first of dozens of viewings.
Within the first few minutes, I paused the movie in disbelief that what I was seeing was genuinely part of a feature film. After a stock explosion sound effect, the main character throws himself backward in appropriately slapstick fashion.
In blocky, pink text, hovering above the pavement, are the words, “VFX: Car on fire.”
At that moment, almost as quickly as I had fallen in love with her and with Basement Medicine, I fell in love with this absurd concoction of a movie.
Telling the story of Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), a priest who inherits the mystical ability to transform into a remarkably life-like dinosaur and uses this power to fight evangelical, drug-dealing ninjas, I could hardly have asked for a more unique piece of cinema to bring us together.
While many couples have a song that they associate with each other, Nat and I had “the Velocipastor.” For some uncertain reason, this is what we latched onto and let define our relationship — a wacky and unpolished yet undeniably enjoyable movie.
I loved the movie so much that it inspired me to start this column, abandoned as it has been in my last semester. Spurring us both into fervorous passions for the B-movie genre, Nat and I spent night after night in pursuit of films to match it, but none could come close.
I don’t remember when we first re-watched “the Velocipastor,” but it wasn’t long after our first viewing. The dramatic twists hit with just as much confusion and charm as they had the first time through — revelations of identity both familial and murderous drawing together hints we hadn’t noticed the first time.
Whether Director Brendan Steere embedded these with intention or merely convenient accident, I can’t rightly say. Regardless, every time the two of us sat down for our personal masterpiece again, we would find some new quirk or detail which had previously escaped our laughter-addled attention.
The faint outline of a villain crouched conspicuously in the darkness. Father Stewart (Daniel Steere) pointlessly waving a tarot card in a circle during a seance. A beloved character continuing to produce clouds of smoke from his cigarette after being killed.
A villain’s moving words to a fallen comrade before using the dearly departed’s shirt to wipe blood off his fingertips. A doctor sitting in a chair, attempting to ignore that his head mirror fell over his eyes, then awkwardly admitting defeat to adjust it.
It didn’t take long for “the Velocipastor” to become our comfort movie — the film we would ask to watch if a day had been exceedingly strenuous or a conversation particularly difficult.
In all honesty, it was a perfect choice for this.
It’s hard not to smile at any scene including Frankie Mermaid, a drug-dealing, murderous pimp who serves as an early villain. The audacity and over-the-top nature of his character are beautifully performed by Fernando Pacheco De Castro.
He became a personal favorite in our many repeated viewings, and I still feel a sense of surrealist shock when he removes his hat to reveal a disastrous attempt at a comb-over, demanding leading lady Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) affirm that he is, in fact, “swimming in bitches.”
“The Velocipastor” is host to an endless array of memorable quotes thanks to Steere’s deadpan and self-aware writing. As our view count increased, Nat and I would reference them in conversation at opportune moments, always getting a laugh out of each other.
To include each of my favorites in Basement Medicine would be to print half the script. Flipping between deadpan deliveries and exaggerated exclamations, every performer has iconic lines, and we would say them to each other with the same reverence Cohan used with Doug’s fake Bible verses.
Sam (Jesse Turtis) pulling down his ninja mask to declare drug-dealing has “everything” to do with Christianity. Father Stewart assuring Doug he’s not unlike many men in the church. Wartime Buddy Ali (David Sokol) suggesting 15 minutes per day is enough time to spend with each of one’s 11 hypothetical children. Doug’s parents implying that “priest college” could be completed in an afternoon.
I can’t say how many times we watched “the Velocipastor” together, but it has been so many that I can nearly see the movie in my own head. Having not seen it in the months since I parted with her, I am writing this review from entirely memory.
I promised Nat before we broke up that this would be the last Reel Bad — a callback to Ari’s review and a testament to the movie that had inspired the column. Despite stating to Tyrone this semester that it had been brought behind the shed and shot, I knew I had to finish with this.
Despite the distance or the decades that may come between us, “the Velocipastor” will always make me think of her, and for that, I can give it no end of praise or favoritism. It might not be good by conventional standards, but it’s fun, it’s unique, and it’s certainly something special.
“The Velocipastor,” to me, will always be more than a movie. It’s a cinematic treasure for its low-budget and senseless humor. It’s what drew me to Basement Medicine and found me my passion for journalism. It’s what I watched the first night I spent at my girlfriend’s house. It’s a love letter to two years of memories in 75 minutes.
If nothing else, “the Velocipastor” is an excellent way to make memories. With loved ones, with friends, with family, or with someone you’ve just met — give the movie a try.
I hope you’ll find it’s something special too.