The Films of Todd Rohal
The Guatemalan Handshake
The Catechism Cataclysm (February 19/12)
A seriously bizarre little movie, The Catechism Cataclysm follows an upbeat and terminally garrulous priest (Steve Little's Father William) as he invites high-school friend Robbie (Robert Longstreet) on a day-long canoe trip - with the chat-heavy excursion taking a decidedly sinister turn after William and Robbie encounter a couple of seemingly friendly tourists and their hulking, silent companion. Filmmaker Todd Rohal has infused The Catechism Cataclysm with an idiosyncratic and downright off-kilter feel that admittedly does, in the movie's early stages, prove impossible to resist, with the oddball vibe heightened by Little's note-perfect turn as the film's quirky central character. It is, as such, not surprising to note that The Catechism Cataclysm fares best in its early scenes, as the Odd Couple-like chemistry between Little and Longstreet's diametrically-opposed characters is as compelling as one might've hoped. The actors are so good together, in fact, that it's initially easy enough to overlook the less-than-eventful nature of the movie's plot, with the episodic midsection, which is devoted primarily to William and Robbie's low-key exploits (eg they bicker, they tell jokes, they reminisce, etc, etc), inevitably wreaking havoc on the film's tenuous momentum and testing the viewer's ongoing patience. The sporadic inclusion of engrossing sequences (eg Robbie's story about a man at the end of his rope) prevents one from tuning out completely, although it's just as clear that the whole thing does begin to peter out significantly as it passes the one-hour mark - with the presence of progressively inexplicable elements accelerating (and cementing) the movie's disappointing downfall. The effectiveness of certain horror-specific developments towards the end are subsequently diminished substantially, and it's ultimately impossible to walk away from The Catechism Cataclysm feeling that it could (and should) have been much, much better.
Nature Calls follows Patton Oswalt's Randy as he hijacks a troop of boy scouts and absconds with them into the woods, with trouble ensuing after Randy's obnoxious brother (Johnny Knoxville's Kirk) embarks on a quest to track down said troop and bring them home. Filmmaker Todd Rohal does a nice job of initially drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as the early part of Nature Calls boasts a fast paced and thoroughly irreverent feel that's impossible to resist - with the movie's affable atmosphere heightened by Oswalt's typically personable turn as the slightly unhinged central character. The presence of several laugh-out-loud funny bits only perpetuates the film's watchable atmosphere, and it is, as such, fairly disappointing to note that the whole thing begins to peter out significantly once it passes the halfway mark. Rohal's increasingly desperate efforts at eliciting laughs paves the way for a frenetic, tiresome third act, as the writer/director seems to be going out of his way to cultivate an atmosphere on madcap hilarity - and yet, as becomes more and more clear, very little of this stuff is actually funny. Nature Calls eventually becomes something of an ordeal to sit through, which is a shame, really, given the incredible potential offered by the movie's opening half hour and star Oswalt's charming performance.