Most of us can use a little escapist entertainment at the best of times, but with the onset of a global pandemic, it’s become more important than ever to find a way to get out of your head and the world at large for a little while. Some may prefer to do this by disappearing into worlds even more dramatic and dystopian than our own, and plots rife with high stakes and deep, meaningful questions. Others, however, like to consume media so artfully terrible that it becomes almost transcendently beautiful, where the only question you are compelled to ask yourself is “How high were the people who made this?” If you, like me, ever fall in the latter camp, then I have two movies that might just be perfectly tailored to you; “The VelociPastor” and “Tammy and the T-Rex.”
“The VelociPastor” follows a young man of the cloth with the startlingly unique name of Doug Jones. When he loses his parents in a car fire, he risks losing his faith as well; to stave this off, he travels to China, where he stumbles across a woman bleeding to death from arrow wounds in the woods. Her dying act is to hand him a fossilized dinosaur claw, which he accidentally cuts himself with. Doug soon returns to America and begins experiencing mysterious blackouts. He soon finds out why, thanks to a sex worker named Carol—he’s been transforming into a velociraptor and going on murderous rampages, and his latest well-timed mauling has saved Carol from danger. Once Carol convinces him to hone his abilities and use them to fight crime, nothing can stand in his way—except perhaps the pair’s growing, forbidden affection for each other. Oh, and also the band of ninjas who are trying to murder Doug. Did I forget to mention them?
Michael, the protagonist of “Tammy and the T-Rex,” follows a not-dissimilar trajectory to Doug. Michael’s status as Tammy’s new boyfriend puts him in the line of fire from Tammy’s ex Billy, who decides to handle their conflict with the utmost grace and maturity—by knocking Michael unconscious and dumping him in the middle of a jungle cat safari park. Michael is discovered and whisked to the hospital, but not before a mauling from a lion sends him into a coma. This turn of events is extremely convenient for some local mad scientists, who abduct him and extract his brain in order to animate the gigantic robotic tyrannosaurus they have constructed. We never actually learn why they’ve built it, but that’s okay—Michael has his own ideas about what to do with his new prehistoric state, such as escaping and getting gory revenge on Billy, Billy’s friends, and any others who have wronged him. Thankfully, Tammy is willing to work to overcome a few new obstacles in their relationship, such as his lack of a human body and the disgruntled gangs of cops and mad scientists that are now in pursuit of the murderous dino.
Each of these low-budget flicks shows an admirable dedication to campy ridiculousness, right down to the littlest details. For “The VelociPastor,” that shines through most clearly in its comedy-skit style dialogue, such as when Carol earnestly tells Doug that she dreams of becoming a “doctor-lawyer” and moonlights as a sex worker to put herself through “medical law school.” For “Tammy and the T-Rex,” it’s all in the aesthetics, from the ridiculously impractical and revealing costumes worn by both the male and female lab assistants to the animatronic dinosaur, which was only portrayed as animatronic because the producers knew trying to pass it off in-world as real would be too much to ask (not that that stopped the producers of “The VelociPastor,” who settled for using the most obviously blow-up monstrosity you’ve ever seen).
Credit where credit is due, these films do have their genuinely touching moments, such as the tender shot of Tammy recognizing her boyfriend in the dinosaur’s artificially constructed eyes, or the goofy yet passionate high-five between Doug and Carol that jump-starts his training montage. However, the greatest strength of each film is the one that unites them both: the power to make you absolutely lose your mind laughing at how unabashedly weird the whole thing is, dinosaur and all. And that’s something that you deserve to experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a double-feature rewatch.