This Were-Dinosaur is a Holy Terror!
Directed By Brendan Steere / 2019
“Ironically bad movies are the worst” -Confucius
Maybe Confucius didn’t say that, but it was definitely a very wise man. Ironically bad movies- movies that are made bad on purpose- are the worst. They’re typically one joke premises that have been stretched way too thin over their running time. They further shield themselves from any criticism through their shoddy craftsmanship, terrible writing, atrocious acting, and dirt cheap production design by being able to claim that the awfullness is the entire point. And so we come to The VelociPastor, a movie which checks all of the above boxes and quite a few more besides. VelociPastor has all of the faults of the ironically bad movie, and really leans into them on more than one occasion, but it does have one saving grace these films often lack: it is never, ever boring.
It does have one saving grace… it is never, ever boring.
The VelociPastor tells the story of Father Doug, a young priest who loses his family in a terrible explosion. The explosion is depicted onscreen by a title that reads: “VFX: Burning Car.” Within the first couple of minutes you are quite aware as to what sort of movie you are in for. To help process his loss and renew his faith in God, Doug travels to China. China is depicted onscreen by the woods just outside the small town where this was filmed overlayed with a title that reads: “China.” IMDB says this was filmed in Manhattan, NYC. Based on what’s on screen, it’s really more like Manhattan, Tennessee.
But I digress. While in China, Doug finds a mysterious artifact that transforms him into the “Dragon Warrior.” It’s basically a werewolf movie, only instead of changing into a wolf, Doug becomes a paper-mache dinosaur. And instead of preying on the innocent, Doug funnels his newfound power into eating just the bad guys, with the help of a local hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold ™. However, there’s a clan of ninjas that take exception to Doug’s new hobby, and his fellow priest back at the home church isn’t too fond of it either.
The story in a movie like this is besides the point. The film feels like it is just making things up as it goes along. And that ties back into what I was saying earlier. If I call the story out for being shaggy and meandering and not properly developing its characters or building the stakes, defenders of the movie can just claim that it’s supposed to be bad, and that shuts down all effective criticism. And believe me when I say that in these, and many other respects, The VelociPastor is so very, very bad.
But darn it if I wasn’t entertained by it the whole way through.
Way back in the year 2001, writer/director Larry Blamire released his paean to the sci-fi thrillers of the 1950’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. This was a genuinely heartfelt tribute to the schlocky creature features that had regular rotation on the local TV stations of both mine and Blamire’s youths. The script was clever and the performances perfectly captured the stiffness of the source material (purposefully- you can tell these aren’t bad actors). I really like this movie. But somewhere around three-quarters of the way through the movie, it begins to lose steam. The jokes have all kind of played out, fresh ones come with much less frequency, and we’re just watching the story, ridiculous as it is, unfold. The VelociPastor does not have this problem. When a given situation has been milked for whatever it’s worth (such as a pastor that changes into a dinosaur), the film gleefully jumps stories and genres and moves onto the next thing. There’s an extended flashback to the Vietnam war (I didn’t know blue jeans were standard GI issue back then!); there’s a nameless assassin, who longs to go home to his true love; there’s a weird conspiracy cult that aims to hook the whole world on coke; long-lost siblings reveals themselves, and so forth. And all of this plays out earnestly and goofily over the film’s 80-minute runtime.
I can’t stress enough how cheap, crude and poorly-made The VelociPastor is… I don’t think any of that is an insult.
I can’t stress enough how cheap, crude and poorly-made The VelociPastor is. Given the context, I don’t think any of that is an insult. The people behind the movie know this and they have leaned into it. Witness how the obviously bad rear-projection in the driving scene (as Doug drives to China!) is made worse when they add a “passing street light” effect on Doug, despite it being daytime. Or how the mannequin heads used for decapitated victims are not only glaringly obvious, but the wrong gender to boot! Crude and poorly-made? Terms worn as a badge of honor by the filmmakers.
Sharknado and its ilk have ten times the production value of The VelociPastor and yet none of its earnest heart. The wise man quoted above was no doubt thinking of the typical Asylum output when he disparaged the ironically bad movie. I hope I have accurately described the tone and style of The VelociPastor. If this doesn’t sound like something that would interest you, for God’s sake stay away! But if it sounds like your sort of movie, and I know you folks are out there, seek it out and you will be rewarded. Everyone clearly had a good time making it, and that comes out in the final product.