Starring Steve Little, Robert Longstreet, Miki Ann Maddox, Koko Lanham, Wally Dalton
Directed by Todd Rohal (interview w/Rohal, Little, and Longstreet here)
Let me preface my review of The Catechism Cataclysm by saying that I love quirky genre films. Movies like the recently released Rubber or even a classic like Saturday the 14th Strikes Back make me giddy like an eight-year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert (or whatever it is those darned kids are listening to these days). So if you’re not down with weird and abstract horror, then you may want to move along because The Catechism Cataclysm is not for you. However, if you’re like me and feel ‘the weirder, the better’ is horror you can dig on, then read on, my friend.
At the start of The Catechism Cataclysm, we meet Father Billy (Little), a socially awkward priest who regales his parishioners with inappropriate morality tales he learned growing up from the one man he’s always idolized: his sister’s one-time rocker boyfriend, Robbie (Longstreet). After Billy is asked to go on a sabbatical from his church by fellow man of the cloth Father O’Herlihy (Dalton), Billy uses his newfound free time to locate his idol Robbie in an effort to get some answers from the man he reveres most (talk about worshipping false idols!).
Once the two reconnect, the ball begins awkwardly rolling. Billy gushes on about days gone by, and Robbie, now a failed musician and miserable shell of a man, struggles to even remember who Billy or his sister were since he apparently was somewhat of a man-whore back in his more rockin’ days. For some reason, maybe out of pity or maybe out of the sheer amusement of hanging out with a fanboy for a day, Robbie agrees to go on a canoe trip with Father Billy. Once the two embark on a seemingly quiet and enjoyable day, things go downhill fast when the duo get lost in the woods. And that’s when everything really takes a turn for the worse for both Robbie and Father Billy, but the ride couldn’t possibly be more awesome and enjoyable for the audience than what writer/director Todd Rohal cooks up for the third act.
When lost pals Robbie and Father Billy see two nameless Asian tourists (Maddox and Lanham, who are called Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn on the IMDB but aren’t actually referenced with names in the film – which adds to the mystery and charm of the flick) who happen to float by on the very same river they got lost on. The men flag down the two strange girls and camp out with them for the night, even though the ladies don’t speak a lick of English.
However, what our leads don’t know is that Tom and Huck have some deadly ulterior motives, and to say anything from there would be a major disservice to anyone wanting to see the movie. What I can say is that from that point The Catechism Cataclysm goes in a very odd and violent direction which can be best described as Wicker Man meets Scanners meets Eraserhead. And Rohal’s brilliant ending has a Demon Knight meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre vibe that left me smiling for quite a while after the film’s conclusion.
The Catechism Cataclysm is one of those quirky little movies that defies true definition so I imagine it is something David Lynch would enthusiastically approve of. The buddy comedy turned bizarre nightmare caught me completely off guard and turned out to be one of the most refreshing films I had the opportunity to check out during the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival last month.
Even though there’s a very slow build to the epic insanity that occurs in The Catechism Cataclysm’s third act, you never mind the ride, much to the credit of the chemistry between the two leads, Little and Longstreet, who deliver performances that masterfully range from awkward to heartbreaking to infuriating to hilarious.
Rohal, whose previous works are also exercises in oddity, once again delivers an oddball flick that works on many different levels and demonstrates his poise as a unique filmmaker. I imagine that if The Catechism Cataclysm can connect with its audience, it has the potential to be a midnight cult classic that fans will discover for years to come.
4 out of 5
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