In the misbegotten words of Texas businessman Clayton Williams, just relax and enjoy it.
The goofy, socially awkward Father Billy Smoortser (Steve Little, TV’s “Eastbound & Down“) is in a rut, so he’s forced by his church to take his annual vacation a little early. He reveals his big plans to his too-patient superior: He’ll meet up with Robbie Shoemaker, his sister’s ex-boyfriend, “and guess what? Us dudes are gonna hit the water in a canoe.”
It is news to Robbie (Robert Longstreet, “Take Shelter“), a chain-smoking, beer-drinking, flannel-wearing roadie for a rock band. Robbie meets Father Billy at a greasy spoon with no intentions of doing anything more than having a cup of coffee, but somehow — perhaps curiosity about this potentially insane man-child in the collar? — gets talked into an afternoon on the river.
Billy’s plans begin rocky: “I dropped my Bible in a pile of diarrhea. Why why why did I drink coffee? Why did I eat jalapeño poppers?” They grow ever more wrong as the hours pass. If you suspect their adventures will end like every stuck-in-nature comedy ever committed to celluloid, you’re absolutely correct … in being 110 percent wrong. The film takes a turn you really won’t expect, and even then, you may not believe.
So whiplash-inducing is Rohal’s twist that I suppose it could color one’s opinion immediately into another shade. Those who’ve tolerated the movie’s purposely quirky vibe to that point may cry foul retroactively for the entire work. But “Cataclysm” isn’t meant to be merely tolerated; you must be onboard from the start for it to work its warped wonders properly. As a big fan of Little’s “Eastbound” character of Stevie, which is maybe one degree off from Father Billy, I was. Those who complain that “Cataclysm” has no ending haven’t been paying attention.
Fine as Little and Longstreet are as our odd couple, the show is stolen by unknowns Miki Ann Maddox and Koko Landham as Asian campers named (kinda) Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. I’ll say no more. If you’re into discovering something different, experience this mix of absurdity and hilarity as soon as you can.
Speaking of, the extras include a short titled “Sasquatch Birth Journal 2” that, while not made by Rohal, certainly is in sync with the film’s anarchic tone. Thanks to the Sundance Film Festival — not to mention participation by, ahem, Oklahoma Sasquatch Research — you can watch the four-minute clip here. —Rod Lott