The Velocipastor (Review) He’s a man of the claw…

THE VELOCIPASTOR

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Katie Armstrong and Wild Eye Releasing for allowing me early access to an online screener of their new Action/Adventure/Comedy film “The Velocipastor”, Written and Directed by Brendan Steere. The Velocipastor is a creature feature b-movie that revolves around Doug Jones (played by Greg Cohan), a local pastor who’s reeling from the recent loss of his parents. Whilst on a trip to China to clear his head, Doug comes into possession of a dinosaur tooth, one that ultimately sees him inherit a supernatural ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. He meets a kind-hearted hooker (Alyssa Kempinski) who ultimately convinces him to use his power to do good and cleanse the world of scumbags…. and ninjas. The film also stars Daniel Steere, Aurelio Voltaire, Jesse Turits and Fernando Pacheco De Castro.

The Velocipastor (gotta love that title) is as outrageously nonsensical as it sounds – the definition of the ultimate b-movie. Steere’s script is equal parts monster movie/martial arts flick and rom-com, and one that intends to mock the hypocrisy within the church and perhaps religion in general. It’s outlandish concept and glorious tagline initially drew me in, but as I started watching it I realized even something as silly as this still requires a budget and a level of endeavor. Some of Jesse Gouldsbury’s framing isn’t too bad and the opening driving sequences in which Steere makes use of the old background projection technique (as can be seen in the majority of old films – Hitchcock was well known for it), helps add a layer of charm to the opening. The audio is pretty clear, though up and down in the mix. Kudos go to the sound design team for electing to record and use foley for the fight sequences and scenes involving the dinosaur.

The music choices were a component that I actually enjoyed quite a lot. Punk songs from “The Holy Mess” are raw and energetic, and the pop-rock track “Didn’t Have Time To Think” by “Math The Band” is going on my playlist (like yesterday). Whilst the bulk of the synth score feels generic, there was one cool section. Performances are middlingly hammy (it’ll be a personal preference thing) and the comedy, like always, is subjective as hell. The highlights for me were a couple of dry one-liners reminiscent of gags from “Kung Fury”. In one particular scene, someone is blown up and a man responds to his buddy standing nearby with “We can’t help her she’s too far gone” (or something to that effect) – those kinds of wisecracks appeal to me. Most of the production design has a certain amount of attention to detail within it, particularly the seance setting (as seen above). Despite the fact the dinosaur suit looks hokey at best, it’s still a practical one which is almost always better than the alternative. There are a couple of scenes that showcase some practical blood and gore but it’s not a lot. The climactic kill is cheesy but amusing.

For a movie about a guy who can transform into a dinosaur, The Velocipastor is relatively uneventful for the first half of its 70-minute runtime. There’s a considerable clashing of stylistic choices in both presentation and color grading. A bulk of the dialogue is immediately forgettable (not that you’re watching for that) and there’s no shortage of fumbled ill-timed moments which weren’t even that funny to begin with, let alone when you hold on them for extended periods of time. The copious bundles of grossly exaggerated laughter become awkward and old real fast as well. The war flashback does provide some humor though (albeit mostly unintentional, I think??). It’s the type of flashback you can’t conceive with any great effect due to budgetary limitations. What we end up with is pretty much just two guys and a couple of background extras in makeshift army uniforms hanging out in the woods. It was kind of funny though because I swear one of those guys was wearing Nike shoes (haha) or was that one of the ninjas at the end? I don’t really remember to be honest.

This is one of the first times I’ve been sent an incomplete film for review. In this case, it was a crucial VFX shot that was missing. The combination of that and a rather large watermark proved to be a bit of a distraction throughout. Content aside, my biggest issues with the film lie in the unsettled display of both the cinematography and the editing. There are a handful of murky internal shots, a number of focus issues, and split-screen imagery that seemed completely unnecessary. Glitches in handheld footage are a common occurrence, but even conventional two shots which are initially well-framed, almost always are immediately adjusted mid-take. It’s so constant, why? It’s like that zoom in and pull out method on display in the dancing montages of something like “Austin Powers”. It’s a distraction and a needless one at that. The edit feels rough and misguided, with some content needing to be done away with altogether. Although, at just 70 minutes, it barely clocks in at feature-length as is.

If nothing else, The Velocipastor simply has to win some points for originality. I love a good b-movie, and Brendan’s concept is an undeniably entertaining one reminiscent of “Wolfcop” or “I Was A Teenage Wereskunk”, it’s just a shame that the end result was nothing like those aforementioned titles. The sound design worked well, the music choices were great, and the inclusion of some clever one-liners gave me a few laughs. The dinosaur is bad but it is practical, so there’s that, and the climax of the film is alright as well. Unfortunately, a chunk of the technical aspects come to the forefront in a negative way. Camera techniques and changes on the fly are poor, and the edit isn’t a smooth one. Bad dialogue and off comedic timing notwithstanding, The Velocipastor is just kind of pedestrian and nowhere near as playful as you’d think it would be. I wanted to like this, or at least have it fall into that “so bad it’s good” category, sadly neither of those things can be said about it. I do think absolute die-hard fans of low-budget DIY filmmaking might find something more in this than I could. It’s available on DVD and various streaming platforms from August 13th if you want to check it out. You can watch the trailer below!

My rating for “The Velocipastor” is 3/10

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