SXSW 2019 – Review: THEM THAT FOLLOW Slithers Up Your Skin

them that follow snake

Them That Follow is a new thriller written and directed by Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage and starring a large ensemble cast. It tells the story of the daughter of a snake-handling pastor who holds a secret that could tear their community apart. The film debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and played in the Festival Favorites section at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

The world that this movie builds is absolutely fascinating. Poulton and Savage did a great job of developing this community of snake handlers to feel both bizarre and sympathetic. It is truly interesting to look at these people and the rules that govern them, but that is the case with nearly any film about an oppressive society. Ultimately, this movie plays out like a dystopian romance set in the modern day, and that is very intriguing.

Unfortunately, the story itself is not as strong as the concept or the world in which the story is set. The core of the film is a pretty run-of-the-mill romantic drama that borrows from the common tropes of the genre quite heavily. You can tell where the story is going from moment one, and where it ends is not surprising at all. Regardless, the story arc, however predictable, is still entertaining to watch.

Part of what makes the movie compelling is the way in which the characters were written. The lead characters are all very well-developed. Hope and Augie are very sympathetic, especially because of the things that their community puts them through. Because they are so compelling, you will easily become involved in their story. Some of the supporting characters, like Garrett (Lewis Pullman), are a bit flat, but others, like Augie’s father (Jim Gaffigan), are surprisingly complex.

them that follow church

The film also does a very good job of building suspense despite the rather predictable story. The beginning is definitely somewhat slow as it introduces us to the characters and their world, setting the stage for things that are to come in the final act. When that final act hits and big things start to happen, the movie starts to feel crazy and intense even though you know that this is what the film was building to the whole time.

One of the most impressive aspects of the movie is its ensemble. Kaitlyn Dever does a great job in her supporting role. Her turn is very subtle and nuanced, which goes a long way in complementing the fittingly over-the-top performances of the rest of the supporting cast. Walton Goggins plays the protagonist’s father in the film, and he is absolutely excellent. He is over-the-top, menacing, and a whole lot of fun to watch. It is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role because he did such a great job with it.

The execution of the movie was also quite strong. The cinematography is very good, doing a great job of building suspense, particularly in the snake handling scenes. There is another shot later in the film, in which the focus shifts from a horrifying action happening in the background to a character’s reaction in the foreground. This makes the scene all the more impactful.

Overall, Them That Follow was a very good thriller. Despite a somewhat generic plot, the world in which it takes place is fascinating in the performances are top-notch. Look out for this one when it gets released.

Them That Follow is now playing at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It opens in theaters on June 21.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

2 comments

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Olivia Colman is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. I think she is absolutely phenomenal in this film, but I wanted to take the time to highlight two performances that aren’t getting as much attention and deserve it too. Everyone is talking about Colman right now, and not enough people are talking about Dever and Goggins.
      Thanks!
      -Sean

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