"Anyone who caught writer-director Todd Rohal's The Guatemalan Handshake (2006) knows that he likes to lace his indie realism with generous helpings of lysergic weirdness," writes David Fear in Time Out New York. "So it's no surprise that what starts out as a beer-soaked cringe comedy about stunted masculinity ends up deep in the woods with noise-loving Japanese tourists and exploding craniums — or that such detours into psychotronic oddity for its own sake can make even a 75-minute running time feel like an eternity. Still, kudos for the oh-so-clever title."
"Produced by Eastbound & Down masterminds David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, and Danny McBride, and starring that show's standout weirdo Steve Little, writer/director Todd Rohal's farce follows incompetent Father Billy (Little) as he tries to rediscover his faith through a sabbatical canoeing trip with his sister's high school ex-boyfriend Robbie (Robert Longstreet)," explains Nick Schager in the Voice. "Little's shtick is hardly enough to prop up even a feature as slight as this 80-minute indie, though his bizarre mentally challenged adolescent-poseur routine remains the only slight source of humor in this otherwise tepid lampoon."
Gabe Toro at the Playlist: "The Catechism Cataclysm is mostly scored by head-pounding heavy metal, which turns out to be an appropriate soundtrack for Billy's coming nightmare, involving the return of Tom and Huck, a silent demon in sweatpants, and a device that explodes heads. Straddling genres is part of this film's thesis, as it constantly readjusts its narrative in order to best challenge Billy, who feels he has strayed from the Church. The argument posed here is that the challenges faced by our hero defy simple explanation or categorization."
It's a "shaggy-dog story about the seductive power of storytelling and the weird places it can transport us," writes Simon Abrams in Slant. "[T]oo bad writer-director Todd Rohal doesn't take us any place worth going. While the ending to any such story is supposed to be irrelevant, The Catechism Cataclysm's capper is particularly enervating."
More from Paul Brunick and David Dewitt in the New York Times. Earlier: Reviews from Sundance, where The Catechism Cataclysm played to a far more appreciative crowd. Michael Tully interviews Rohal at Hammer to Nail. Currently at the IFC Center for one week.
Update, 10/20: At the AV Club, Noel Murray notes that "even after the movie takes its turn for the surreal, it remains rooted in the reactions of slack-faced good guy Little and the gruff-but-loveable Longstreet. They're a funny pair, and more alike than they immediately realize: They're both living lives very different from what they expected, and they've both constructed narratives to justify where they've ended up."
Updates, 10/21: "Digging for religious or philosophical profundities in The Catechism Cataclysm feels akin to panning in depleted waters," writes Scott Tobias for NPR. "Each little nugget of wisdom turns out to be fool's gold. Still, there are many pleasures in Rohal's sweet-spirited little confection."
IndieWIRE's Eric Kohn interviews Rohal.
Update, 10/27: From Reverse Shot: