‘Them That Follow’ Review: A Slow-Burn Appalachian Gothic Tale That Descends into Body Horror Territory [Sundance]

/Film | 1/30/2019 | Chris Evangelista
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“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” This line from the book of Luke helped give birth to the religious rite of snake handling in Appalachia. As is the case with often questionable religious practices, the worshippers following this tradition have taken things literally, pulling hissing, venomous snakes from crates and practically daring the creatures to bite them. If they are truly one with the Holy Spirit, they will remain unharmed. If they’ve sinned? Well, that’s another matter.

An Appalachian snake handling community is at the center of Them That Follow, an almost unbearably tense drama from directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage. In this closed-knit community of worshippers, there’s nothing to fear from serpents…as long as you haven’t transgressed.

Strange - World - Eyes - Mara - Alice

We enter this strange, hazardous world through the eyes of Mara (Alice Englert), the daughter of the snake handling church’s pastor (Walton Goggins). Mara believes fully in her faith, but she also has doubts about the path her father wants her to take. As far as the pastor is concerned, Mara should marry the shy, quiet Garret (Lewis Pullman). But Mara is drawn to Augie (Thomas Mann), the son of two members of the church. Augie’s parents – played by Olivia Colman and Jim Gaffigan – are devout, but Augie does not practice. He’s an outsider, and wants no part of the church. But he would very much like to be a part of Mara’s life, and indeed, before Them That Follow has even started, the star-crossed lovers have already made love – an act that has resulted in Mara becoming pregnant.

This set-up has all the makings of something Shakespearian, or Flannery O’Connor crossed with William Faulkner. As Them That...
(Excerpt) Read more at: /Film
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