Review: Them That Follow
Set in an isolated Appalachian mountain community of snake-handling religious zealots, Britt Poulton's debut drops you into an unfamiliar world. Dread hangs over every scene due to this setting. While the film gets the theology and details of this community right, it falls back on some tropes of films that warn that the remote South is a scary place.
The evangelical community is led by preacher Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins). He regularly utilizes rattlesnakes in his sermons to test the purity of his followers. The opening scene sets the tone that no one is completely safe from judgment and being forced to test their faith by holding one of these poisonous reptiles.
Lemuel's daughter Mara (Alice Engert) is secretly pregnant by an ex-member of the church names Augie (Thomas Mann). Her father has promised her hand in marriage to one of his devout followers. This sets up the film's stakes. Can Mara escape her family and this community in order to be with the one she loves?
On a technical level, Them That Follow is marvelous. The cinematography of Brett Jutkiewicz captures the sweaty sermons perfectly. Editor Joshua Raymond Lee keeps the film moving along, giving each scene enough time to let the performances shine. Supporting performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Oliva Colman are standouts.
Them That Follow builds enough tension to feel akin to something like Deliverance or Winter's Bone but curiously fizzles out in its last act. Instead of making any kind of statement about religious zealotry or backwoods communities, it settles on simply showing how some people end up trapped by their lot in life.
The performances and great camera work end up elevating the film from a somewhat uninspired screenplay. Them That Follow is worth checking out thanks to the filmmaking and in particular Egert's performance.