As professional-grade video production equipment and editing software has become more widely available, just about anyone with enough drive and passion — but not necessarily talent or skill — can produce their own feature film. RedLetterMedia’s YouTube show “Best of the Worst” often reviews such amateur productions from the VHS home video eras of the 1980s to early 2000s, highlighting the most bizarre small films that often have big, lofty ideas, but have a hysterical lack of direction, corny over-the-top acting, cheap sets and special effects, and are often shot in the middle of the woods.
Brendan Steere’s “The VelociPastor” seems to satirize these ultra low-budget films, but unlike the likes of Tommy Wiseau and Neil Breen, whose films have gained notoriety by their complete lack of self-awareness and unintentionally, embarrassingly funny moments, Steere is keenly aware of the cheese of his production, and he embraces it. The film follows the Rev. Doug Jones (Gregory James Cohan), a Catholic Priest who travels to “China” (actually the woods in the American Northeast, which he doesn’t try to hide) after his parents die in a horrible car explosion that the film jokingly admits it doesn’t have the VFX budget to actually show us, where he is given an artifact that gives him the ability to turn into a velociraptor (which they call a “Dragon Warrior”).
Our main antagonist is Wei Chan (Yang Jiechang) leader of a group of ninjas that want to destroy Doug, and who sell drugs. He is accompanied by his second in command Sam the White Ninja (Jesse Turits), who is another comical, over-the-top villain. Jones is helped by his mentor, the Rev. Stewart (Daniel Steere), who is skeptical of Doug’s new abilities and even tries to have him exorcised, and Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) a hooker studying to be a lawyer and a doctor that he saves one night.
The film pokes plenty of fun at itself, and was made with a staggeringly-low $35,000. As such, while there are instances of fantastic film editing and the cinematography and scene composition are of professional quality (everything about the film feels intentional, unlike amateur films featured on “Best of the Worst”), there is really no special effects budget, with Doug’s velociraptor form literally being a dinosaur costume you could find at “Spirit Halloween.” The film is still goofy and watchable — mostly because Cohan and Kempinski’s charm carries the film — but it lacks enjoyably ridiculous schlock other “intentionally bad” films have.
But “VelociPastor” is still a very enjoyable watch, and it is mercifully short with a runtime of 75 minutes. As of the time of publication, the film is free to watch on Amazon Prime.
“The VelociPastor 2” is officially happening, and assuming Steere is able to secure a larger budget, hopefully it can up the ante. And nonetheless, I would love to see more of Cohan and Kempinski — even in the realm of mainstream TV and films.
“The VelociPastor” gets a 7/10