Photo: 1091 Media
Before We Vanish by Steven Warner Film

Them That Follow | Britt Poulton & Dan Madison Savage

August 23, 2019

A religious drama set among the Pentecostal snake handlers of Appalachia, there are any number of paths that Them That Follow could have taken to deliver a compelling film. An insider’s look at a culture rarely seen by the average moviegoer? A probing examination of what drives these individuals to such extreme measures? But first-time writing and directing duo Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage make the bizarre decision to use their unique setting as mere window dressing for a banal love triangle — one which makes the struggles of the central trio from the Twilight series seem profound in comparison. Preacher’s daughter Dilly (Alice Englert) discovers that she is pregnant with the child of non-believer Augie (Thomas Mann), even though she has already pledged herself to the devout Garret (Lewis Pullman).

To say that this inspires a crisis of faith within our leading lady would imply that something of interest happens — but Englert doesn’t so much act as she does sulk for 98 minutes, while Dilly’s two paramours both inexplicably profess that their actions are a direct result of the power she wields over them. Luckily, Walton Goggins is on hand to distract as Daddy Snake Handler (no, this is not his name), while recent Oscar winner Olivia Colman does what she can with her underwritten role as Generic Bitchy Mom. The solemnity here is what is truly surprising, though — since the film is pitched in a way that otherwise almost borders on camp. Not even the unexpected appearance of a reciprocating saw at the end, though — used for appropriately nefarious reasons, and intercut with a snake treating Englert like a human jungle gym — can enliven Them That Follow. This is a glacially-paced, dire, and ultimately exploitative affair. Thou shalt watch something else.

Published as part of August 2019’s Before We Vanish.