Friday, March 6, 2020

The Velocipastor Is The Rare B-Movie Homage To Work Like Gangbusters

Thanks to shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as popular cult classics like The Room, not to mention the fact that the people who grew up with 1980's and 1990's schlock are now in control of creating mainstream pop culture, comically bad B-movie cinema is quite in right now. That also means comedic features trying to ape the style of those low-quality genre movies are equally ubiquitous. Such endeavors tend to have mixed results. It's one thing to try and make and Terminator knock-off and end up with unintentionally goofy nonsense like Future War. Meanwhile, the likes of Sharknado (specifically those sequels) tend to strain way too hard at being funny. They're trying to replicate a type of cinematic humor that only tends to emerge inadvertently.

The Velocipastor, despite having a killer central premise and equally killer title, sounds, in theory, like it should be another example of a comedy that's painfully broad in its attempts to recreate B-movie lightning in a bottle. Astonishingly, though, writer/director Brendan Steere has managed to make both a passionate homage to the low-grade movies of yore as well as a genuinely funny comedy in its own right. Instead of ham-fisted jokes straining to wring laughs out of the viewer, Steere finds much moe interesting comedic material stemming from his obvious love for vintage B-movie fare. One of these types of movies turning out this well is like a Christmas miracle...only most Christmas miracles don't feature a dinosaur viciously eating people. Maybe they should. 

The titular Velocipastor is actually pastor Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), a by-the-book follower of his religion who isn't driven to breaking the theological rules that guide him even when his parents are brutally murdered. However, a chance encounter with a panic-stricken woman in China leads him to become endowed with a curse. Now, whenever he's enraged, he turns into a man-eating velociraptor! At first reluctant to embrace his newfound abilities, Jones is convinced by potential love interest Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) to use his raptor alter-ego to devour baddies. Doug Jones may not be certain about this plan but the world could need VelociPastor now that a crew of deadly ninjas are on their way to spread drugs throughout his home-town.

Ninjas, dinosaurs, religion, The Velocipastor has got it all and thankfully, writer/director Brendan Steere is able to execute it all with a surprisingly high level of success. Primarily this is due to Steere recognizing that playing super wacky material with a straight face results in better comedy than poking viewers in the ribs over how wacky the movie you're watching is. A pimp totally seriously declaring himself to be named Frankie Mermaid is a good example of this. The character's performance by actor Frankie Pacheco De Castro is totally fitting with any number of broad pimp caricatures you'd in 1980's schlock rather than coming off as the kind of performance you'd find in, say, a Happy Madison comedy.

To boot, Steere keeps The Velocipastor lean and mean in terms of its runtime. Credits begin running at the 70-minute mark and the script doesn't go down all the kind of tiresome dead ends that so many B-movie homages engage in to boost up their runtime. Save for an overlong Vietnam War flashback digression (and even that sequence has a killer, no pun intended, gag involving a minefield), The Velocipastor shows off some solid pacing skills that keep the enterprise from becoming a one-joke production stretched beyond its limit. Also helping to ensure that The Velocipastor is better than it has any right to be is the simple fact that the movie is just a whole lot of fun to watch.

I absolutely adore how Steere, even under such severe budgetary restrictions (the movie was made for just $35,000!), doesn't hesitate to have The Velocipastor just fully commit itself to all kinds of mayhem. For example, this movie doesn't just have a sex scene set to a rock song, it has a sex scene set to a rock song that's also intercut with a montage sequence showing off the various dates shared by the main romantic couple. Ditto for once the climax rolls around and it's time for the titular being to be shown in full for the first time. Steere doesn't try and hide the T-Rex looking creature that the movie calls the Velocipastor, the camera just stares on as this beast humorously lumbers around and massacres ninjas. 

Steere's directing has such confidence in even the most ramshackle material and there's a similar level of conviction in regards to the love for the material Velocipastor is homaging. This production is aking more cues from Mel Brooks than Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedberg when it comes to making a parody movie. Whereas the latter duo showed such contempt for the material they were lampooning in works like Meet the Spartans, Brooks always demonstrated a clear love for the movies that inspired Young Frankenstein. That same sort of love clearly informs The Velocipastor as it shows so much affection for vintage B-movies that proves to be both infectious and a key reason why this project ends up being such an immensely fun watch. The two Jurassic World movies wish they had the creative passion and entertainment found in The Velocipastor

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