Thursday, September 12, 2019

THE VELOCIPASTOR (2018) Blu-ray Review

The VelociPastor (2018) d. Brendan Steere (USA) (75 min)

Following a horrific terrorist act that claims the lives of both his parents, young priest Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) attempts to restore his faith by traveling to China (complete with a big onscreen supertitle proclaiming “CHINA”). As he breathes in the restorative mountain air, Doug crosses paths with a frightened woman on the run from murderous ninja assassins (never mind that ninjas are native to Japan and not China) whose dying act is to place a tooth-shaped artifact into his hand. Oh, who are we kidding, it’s an actual tooth of the magical kind, and when our holy hero cuts his hand on its sharp surface, he inherits the ability to transform into a GODDAM, er, GODBLESSED DINOSAUR.

Though thoroughly ambivalent about his newly acquired superpower and what it means in terms of the Lord’s Big Plan, his relationship with a sweet, innocent prostitute with degrees in pre-med and law – hey, if you’re already suspending disbelief to accept the previous plot elements, you can surely handle that one as well – by the name of Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) provides the clarity and guidance he needs to accept his new role as prehistoric protector and Lord-loving Lizard King.

Based simply upon its ridiculous, pun-tastic title, you probably already know if writer/director Steere’s slice of absurdity is going to be your brand of cheese. While it’s fair to say that the concept (illustrated perfectly in the poster art) is markedly funnier than any single moment between opening and closing credits, it’s mindfully brief and refreshingly straight-faced throughout. There are incidents where Steere gilds the lily, commenting and winking at the onscreen action, but for the most part his characters react honestly within the given, albeit ludicrous circumstances.

Cohan is a handsome and enthusiastic presence with a muscular bod and a knack for light comedy, and he is well-matched by Kempinski who handily manages the seemingly impossible task of playing straight-woman to her toothy, gore-spraying co-star without losing an ounce of credibility. Daniel Steere (presumably a relative of the director) has a field day as the crusty Father Stewart who has no problem buying into the notion of an Omnipotent Being but draws the line at Jurassic Jekyll/Hyde shenanigans.

The dinosaur “effects” are probably the most divisive element – the suit is obviously of the backyard budget variety and doesn’t hold up especially well when put front and center… which it is in the final reel. One wishes on the one hand that Steere had taken a more Spielbergian approach and kept his monster hidden around the fringes of the frame; on the other hand, there’s a certain childlike glee at watching this clumsily constructed cosplay showcased with such gusto. Your mileage may vary.

Would The VelociPastor have been better as a four-minute trailer for a film that never existed? Probably. Did we really need to have 75-minute iteration? Probably not. But considering that trailers and short films don’t make any money, I can understand Steere’s decision to commit fully to the project and show prospective future employers and investors what he is capable of on a shoestring (a mere $35K). There’s no denying that his second feature is far more entertaining than it has any right to be; the question that remains is whether he’s capable of pulling off a legitimate feature-length effort that isn’t the equivalent of an overfed SNL skit.

The VelociPastor is available now on DVD and streaming via most major outlets from Wild Eye Releasing, with a Blu-ray release slated for Sept 17, available from Diabolik DVD and elsewhere.


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