The VelociPastor (2018)

I have to admit that the one thing I have enjoyed Red Letter Media for is their Best of the Worst episodes.  Sometimes they go over movies I have seen while others that are just the right kind of bad that I know I need to see them.  Then there are movies from directors like Neil Breen.  I don't mean to say The VelociPastor is anywhere near the baffling, narcissistic incompetence of Breen, but sometimes outsider films barely rise to the level of being a true movie.  These days it seems like anyone with a camcorder and a few thousand dollars on a credit card will try to bang out a feature film.

The one good thing I can say about The VelociPastor is that director and writer Brendan Steere at least attempted to make a movie.  It is also, to my surprise, a movie that makes sense, and feels like a film.  Not a good one, not a well-done one, but at least there is an attempt to entertain by using what is on hand.  Unfortunately, that boils down to permission to use a church, a park that doubles for China, Vietnam and a ninja training camp and a fabric and papier-mach√© dinosaur costume. 

Father Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) is a young priest under the tutelage of Father Stewart (Daniel Steere).  When Doug's parents die in a sudden vehicle explosion he sets out to travel the world to rediscover his faith in God.  While in China he is given an ancient artifact by a woman who has been fatally wounded by ninjas.  He begins to have dreams and, once back home, blacks out after getting an appetite for raw meat.

When he comes to he is in the apartment of a hooker named Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) who tells him that he turned into a dinosaur and saved her from a mugger.  She encourages him to use his new powers for good and, despite his vows, he begins falling in love with Carol.  Father Stewart does not approve and attempts an exorcism by an occultist named Altaire (Aurelio Voltaire).  This results in Doug changing and a wounded Stewart being captured by Wei Chan (Jiechang Yang), the leader of a band of ninjas who want Doug out of the way so they can fulfill their goals. 

Despite the almost non-existent production values what does set this movie apart from other microbudget films of its type is that Steere has some idea of what he is doing behind the camera.  He can frame a shot, block his actors and edit.  There is a scene in the movie using various split screens to show the burgeoning romance between Carol and Doug, and it shows that Steere has some actual talent.  If The VelociPastor does anything for him I hope it earns him enough money to at least put together a two- or three-million-dollar production so that he doesn't have to drag out a dinosaur costume from a high school play, which is literally what he did.

This movie is also quite clever in its own way, with war flashbacks and Wei Chan's labyrinthine goals at the end of running his crime empire.  There is a foul-mouthed, balding pimp named Frankie Mermaid, played by a man named Fernando Pacheco de Castro, who just overacts straight into John Waters territory.  As an added surprise Gregory Cohan and Alyssa Kempinski, as well as those they are fighting, seem to know martial arts rather than just flailing around like I have seen in even bigger budgeted films.  

The more I describe the movie in this review the more I understand why it has gained so many fans.  Still, looking at the results compared to Steere's ambition, I can't bring myself to say it's a great bad movie or even a completely enjoyable one.  There are many good parts but the impact, whether it be camp or just a good try, is missing.  This is one of those situations where being competent dulls the impact.  Unlike Neil Breen, James Nguyen or Tommy Wisseau, Steere knows exactly what he is making and plays into those limitations rather than deluding himself into thinking that his movie is any better than it is.  

What I would like to see, if Steere does continue, is him revisit this some time when he has the budget.  It could go either way - it could be much better after fleshing out the story, or it could lose the charm it has for its current audience.  I know at this point Steere is moving on to other projects, and I do believe he has some talent.  

The VelociPastor (2018)
Time: 75 minutes
Starring: Gregory Cohan, Alyssa Kempinski, Daniel Steere, Jiechang Yang
Director: Brendan Steere 



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