Less Than the Name
I enjoy bad movies. Generally there's a delightful quality to a bad movie, an endearing "we tried" attitude that plays well with the shitty effects, bad pacing, and awful acting that somehow comes together to transcend the sum of its parts -- it becomes, as the phrase notes, "so bad it's good". There are plenty of Bad but Good films, many of which Mystery Science Theater 3000First aired on the independent TV network KTMA, Mystery Science Theater 3000 grew in popularity when it moved to Comedy Central. Spoofing bad movies, the gang on the show watch the flicks and make jokes about them, entertaining its audience with the same kind of shtick many movies watchers provided on their own (just usually not as funny as the MST3K guys could provide). It became an indelible part of the entertainment landscape from there, and lives on today on Netflix. has covered, from This Island Earth to Space Mutiny, that I will watch again and again. Their shittiness is transcendent.
And then there's The VelociPastor, a movie about, yes, a minister that can turn into a dinosaur, that is somehow vastly less than the sum of its parts. It was a film clearly created to be awful, inspired by an amusing portmanteau but without any good ideas to back it up, with the whole goal being, "let's set out to make a really terrible movie!" I've seen movies like this, that somehow set out not to be good but just to be fun -- one of my favorites is WolfCop (which I reviewed over on The Inverted Dungeon) -- but it's hard to purposefully make a movie that's both bad and fun. More often than not they're just terrible (like Another WolfCop). Generally speaking, you can't force it.
Watching The VelociPastor it's pretty clear that the shittiness is forced. It tries to be a bad movie, but it tries so hard that it actually goes right past "so bad it's good" into "so bad it's bad again". It crosses the line twice, and not in a good way. It's so caught up in being the shittiest movie it can be that it never tries to actually be a movie at all, losing the thread of what's required to make shitty cinema fun to watch. The Velocipastor is, frankly, just terrible all around.
The movie starts promisingly enough, in a kind of "set the bar very low" sort of way. The main character, Doug Jones (Gregory James Cohan), is a pastor at a Catholic Church. When he witnesses the death of his parents, who "blow up" in a car explosion (depicted by the SFX of an explosion but not the VFX which are, instead, shows simply as text of "add vehicle explosion SFX" on screen, a funny, stupid move), he travels to China (for some reason) to clear his head. There he's nearly attacked by a ninja and gifted a strange rock (clearly a dinosaur fang) which immediately cuts his hand.
Waking up back in the U.S. (for some reason), Doug starts to feel ill. Wandering at night he comes upon a prostitute, Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), who is being attacked by a thugs. Suddenly, Doug turns into a dinosaur (the transformation happening off-screen) and then attacks the thug, saving Carol. When he awakens next he's at Carol's house. She tells him what happens and then encourages him to train and become a force for good, using his dinosaur powers to fight and kill bad guys for God. And the only people that can stand in his way or those pesky ninjas who are dedicated to ridding the world of "Lizard Warriors". Will this dinosaur-warrior for God save the day against a band of evil, drug-dealing ninjas and maybe just get the girl in the process?
So yes, The VelociPastor is a bad movie. It wants to be bad. It doesn't even try to be good -- from that opening shot of the car "exploding" to his travels to "China", which are nothing more than scenes filmed in his backyard with the word "China" put on screen, this film revels in being bad. On that front, then, it would seem like judging it like a normal movie wouldn't be fair; you don't hold Dude Where's My Car? up against The Godfather and try to judge which is "better" (although, for my money I'll watch the former more often than the latter). By that same logic The VelociPastor would seem to get a pass -- it automatically removes itself from "good" films and shoves itself into the "bad" category. This is what it wants.
And yet, as a bad movie, The VelociPastor still doesn't come together. A bad movie still has to be entertaining in some capacity but The VelociPastor is too inept at being "bad" to really pull it off well. I think the issue may be the fact that the filmmakers are actually too good at film making to make a really bad movie. Bad movies have to happen by accident, a well-intentioned effort that somehow goes horribly wrong through sheer ineptness. When the film feels like it's turning and winking at the camera the whole time (like a Kevin Smith cameo in any of his films) it suffers. The VelociPastor is trying to hard when, deep down, you know the filmmakers could have done better.
I say that because the basic composition of the film is actually pretty good. It's well lit, fairly well acted (by no-name, low-rent actors), with decent cinematography and fantastic editing. If the filmmakers had wanted to make a good horror-comedy, I think they could have pulled it off. With an actual attempt at something decent they could have made something that would live as a cult classic like Evil Dead or The Frighteners. Instead the creators played below their obvious skills and it just doesn't work at all.
There are delights to be had. Some scenes have a ton of gory, which for horror fans can be a treat (just wait for a particular flashback for one of the best bits of sudden gore in the whole film). And however much I might rag on the movie it is fun to see someone in a terrible dinosaur costume running around "killing" ninjas. But it's fun in a low-rent, middle school film kind of way. You're amused and think, "yep, they did that," but it's not anything you'd want to watch again. And when you can tell the filmmakers can obviously do better, there isn't even any of the plucky, "well, they tried," attitude to the film. It's just bad.
The simple fact is that the movie has a great B-movie title. The VelociPastor is brilliant in a very dumb way and the right kind of film could have taken that title and made something just as brilliant. Instead we have a dumb piece of low-rent celluloid that can't rise to the obvious skills of the creator. I didn't go in expecting anything from The VelociPastor but, watching the film, I at least expected that the filmmakers wouldn't obviously slum it the whole time. They owed the title so much better than it received.