October 25, 2019 Them That Follow (Movie Review)
We all have our sins, but what happens when faith, family, and friendships are all invariably intertwined? Explore a world of secrets in Them That Follow, a new Thriller that arrives to DVD on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 thanks to Lionsgate.
In the woods of Appalachia, Pastor Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins: Justified series, The Hateful Eight 2015) leads an isolated community of snake handlers, whose faith coexists alongside the abundant rattlesnakes of the region. As with most small towns, there is seemingly little room to keep secrets in this tight-knit enclave, and those that try are doomed to suffer the consequences. Expulsion from the church and ostracism from the community are real threats, and for most the fear is worse than a serpent’s venom.
As the group begins to prepare for the betrothal of the pastor’s devoted daughter Mara (Alice Englert: Beautiful Creatures 2013, Top of the Lake series) to a kindly congregant named Garrett (Lewis Pullman: Bad Times at the El Royale 2018, The Strangers: Prey at Night 2018), deadly hidden truths begin to slither from beneath the moss-covered rocks and threaten to consume the community.
Clocking in at 98 minutes, Them That Follow is a feature-length debut for the writing and directorial team of Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, who previously worked on the 2014 short film Lizard King. It also features the acting talents of Olivia Colman (The Favourite 2018, The Crown series); Kaitlyn Dever (Justified series, Booksmart 2019); Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015, Kong: Skull Island 2017); Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show series, Chappaquiddick 2017); and more.
Billed as a blend of Thriller, Suspense, and Drama, Them That Follow is a dramatic tale of devotion and sin. Heavily steeped in the quirky religious beliefs of this small Pentecostal sect who reside in the mountains, here a serpent’s bite is a cleansing ritual that purifies your soul, and surviving the snake’s venom is left to fate (or faith) rather than modern medical intervention. With stark and moody cinematography from Brett Jutkiewicz (Frances Ha 2012, Ready or Not 2019), the film cloaks itself in an intensity of mood suitable to its characters’ dire circumstances.
With an exceptional ensemble cast, this is a movie thick in buried secrets and emotions. Starring as Mara, the character at the center of all of this drama, Englert delivers an impressive performance as a devoted daughter and firm believer, and yet a young woman who needs to forge her own path to find her happiness. Her choices raise many questions that are open for debate, but it is Englert’s stellar performance that brings it all to life with a grace and a seasoned finesse. Her co-stars Mann and Pullman also do a wonderful job in their roles, providing two characters who also stand as metaphors for Mara’s life-altering decisions.
Understandably, their talented elder castmates bring just as much to the screen, with Emmy nominee Goggins’ performance as Pastor Childs being entirely bewitching. Fiercely passionate in his devotion and his call to serve, Goggins brings to life a pastor who might, for some, seem almost a cult leader, and yet he is never entirely unlikable because he is wholly believable. While Academy Award-winner Colman is given a supporting role here, she delivers a powerful performance as a mother torn between her strong faith and her family. Similarly, the normally witty Gaffigan, an Emmy Award winner, is given even less of a role, but he still delivers a strong performance in his very serious role.
All said, Them That Follow is a fairly simple film that speaks boldly with its minimalism. Melding together beautiful Ohioan nature with an exceptional cast, and a strong screenplay that delves into questions of faith and love, Poulton and Savage have crafted an impressive debut. For fans of recent dramatic thrillers such as 2019’s Rust Creek and Coyote Lake, this is a film offering that forces its viewers into an intensely dramatic tale that raises a multitude of intelligent questions—not a gratuitous gore-fest.
How do we escape the mountains that we have created for ourselves? That is certainly not a simple thing to answer. However, in this instance, the ride is an enjoyable one that will spark some weighty thoughts. For this, Cryptic Rock give Them That Follow 4 of 5 stars.