Streaming Releases: The VelociPastor (2019) - Reviewed

Some of the best films, and subsequent viewing experiences, are those that pay tribute to the magic.  The late night Skinemax mystery, the SYFY monster of the week, or perhaps even the holy grail of the horror section of the VHS store of your mind's eye.  Throughout cinematic history, various love letters to genre, craft, and memory have always left an impact, nestling into the subconscious among youthful memories and unfulfilled concepts.  Brendan Steere's auspicious, shoe string debut, The VelociPastor is a Trashterpiece of the highest order.  While some "homages" seek to parody genre classics, his punk rock love anthem is a celebration, not only of cult cinema, but of artistic creativity.  

A priest gains the power to transform into a Velociraptor and sets out fighting crime with his prostitute/pre-med/pre-law girlfriend.  That's it.  From the opening minutes where expected conflagrations are replaced with VFX CAR ON FIRE, to deliciously cheesy (but faithfully practical) creature effects, this is a take all comers, one for the ages experience.  There's so much ingenuity and genuine love for the craft packed into every frame, the ludicrous framework becomes a boon.  There was a time when rules were made to be broken, when the internet wasn't a phone grab away, and a film lover's opinions were restricted to a close circle of compatriots. Steere’s rebellion emulates this age whenever possible, eschewing tasteless CGI and opting for in your face bloodshed.  Whenever a scene would call for something outside of the budget, a hilarious stunt double is summoned from the prop room, be it the aforementioned title card, a plastic doll's head, and so forth.  

Alyssa Kempinski and Greg Cohan anchor the insanity with natural, endearing performances.  Yes, the writing is purposefully insane, but beyond the camp, is some laugh out loud sarcasm and some surprisingly tender moments.  These two actors put everything into their performances, and the result is one of the best on screen couples of the century, a testament to Steere's formidable understanding of the material and his principals' commitment to the story.  D.A. McCormick's synthy score flitters between a carefully curated soundtrack to dovetail with the central relationship.  There's a love sequence in the middle act that has so much heart, it’s unbelievable how easily it surpasses the cardboard romance that has become the standard of modern American cinema.  

Rounding out the performances is Daniel Steere as the pastor's mentor, Father Stewart.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the screenplay is how every scene is virtually a scene within a scene and Steere's absolute deadpan delivery in every sequence throughout is pitch perfect.  If Cohan's Doug Jones (Del Toro Love!) is the heart, Steere’s Stewart is the connective tissue, bringing the biggest laughs and perhaps a touch of WTF tragedy to virtually every scene.  These elements meld into a locomotion of cherished shlock that hurtles towards the final showdown.  

The finale is an amalgam of every single genre trope known to mankind and it is glorious to behold.  So many pictures are made and force-fed through the box office machine that the process, the ideas, and the appreciation of art often fall to the wayside, exiled to a wasteland of spandex apocalypses and out of touch Oscar bait.  From the opening scene, to its Scorsese-esque credit sequence, every single scene is packed with nostalgia and a kind of honesty that is so rare, it's almost easy to dismiss it as a joke, and therein lies the true heart of this special work.  On the surface, it's a low budget, cheesy film not worthy of Walmart 5-dollar bin.  But this is a lie.  It's obfuscating a kind of purity that doesn't exist anymore.  Take away extravagant CGI, Rotten Tomatoes prognosticators, Disney, and what remains is reverence for the foundation that birthed traditional viewing experiences, and Steere's masterwork is the exact kind of rogue iconography that is needed to refresh the stale annals of box office adherence.  

Now available for digital rental, The VelociPastor is a marvel, the full tilt boogie of genre madness that will capture your heart through buckets of bloods and rubber prosthetic monsters.  This is an era where a film is dead on arrival based on word of mouth and this one of a kind underdog deserves every single ounce of support it can muster.   Revel in its unapologetic cheese, but pay tribute to its profound respect for the art, this is a special thing, the kind of film that "would never get made today."  Whether you're a dumpster diving trash savant or a "saw it in 35mm" elder, this is the unifier.  Common ground for film lovers, an honest, and unabashed love letter to the most powerful medium. 

--Kyle Jonathan