For someone who loves religious/cult-centered horror movies, I was excited to learn there was one about a Pentecostal sect that practices snake handling. I anticipated seeing Them That Follow in 2019, but it never came to a theater in town. Now it’s on Showtime, and when I finally watched it, my anticipations were no match for the disappointment that ensued.
Co-directed and written by Brittany Poulton and Dan Madison Savagae, Them That Follow is an oversimplified story of religion and the human connections within it.
Mara Childs (Alice Englert) and her father, Pastor Lemuel (Walton Goggins) live in a remote Appalachian community. Among them are various parishioners including Garret (Lewis Pullman), Hope Slaughter (Olivia Colman), Zeke Slaughter (Jim Gaffigan) and Dilly Picket (Kaitlyn Denver). Mara and Garret are in a serious (marriage serious) relationship that her father approves. But Mara is in love with another man, Hope and Zeke’s non-religious son Augie (Thomas Mann). So when Garret proposes to Mara, she has to choose between love or a religion: a choice with dire consequences
Drama in Appalachia
The movie is a horror drama, heavy on the drama. It has many horror elements, including the tense music, rising suspense, scary creatures and constant threat of death. In whole, it is a story about Mara’s relationships with the people in her life. Oh, and there are a few snakes. Nowhere near the number I was hoping for. Hence my disappointment.
Now, since the story is about a woman in a religion whose practices largely emphasize snakes, you think the animal would have a bigger role in the film. The trailer sure makes it seem so:
Unfortunately, the snakes in Them That Follow are little more than symbolism, particularly phallic symbolism. That becomes clear well within the first ten minutes of the movie. And it gets really old really quick.
Snake handling is a controversial religious rite involving snakes and biblical worship. Since snake handling can be so dangerous (e.g. historically several people have died from the snakebites), the practice is illegal in most states.
Such legal complications are evident when Them That Follow reveals Pastor Lemuel to be under police investigation after a snakebite killed a young boy in his church. This is only a minor detail, until a snake bites another character and the church faces another threat of legal repercussions. Such a subplot should be important, but it never has any real significance. In fact, the movie downplays it so much that even the characters seem to forget about it.
The story is halfhearted. There is little character development, random religious facts and foreshadowing are thrown here and there. And how many foot washing visuals do we need? It is obvious the writers did their research, but their blending of research and fiction fell short.
While the story faltered, the actors and cinematography made it more thrilling to watch. There are some beautiful nature scenes that made me forget what I was watching (is that supposed to happen?).
I desperately want Walton Goggins to be typecast as asshole pastors forever. He absolutely kills it in that department (if you watch Righteous Gemstones you know what I’m talking about). Olivia Coleman of course is stellar, her performance hard and heartbreaking. And Alice Englert, Kaitlin Denver and Thomas Mann were perfect in their emotionally driven roles.
I want to know if Jim Gaffigan got lost and found himself acting in a horror drama. What was he doing here? Is everything okay? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. He did an excellent job portraying a worried, devout Christian father. Still…
Them That Follow is more miss than hit and arguably good. It is not scary, the plot is forgettable and it oversimplifies a complicated and interesting religious practice. Yet I kept watching. In spite of its foibles, the movie pulled me in. For 98 minutes I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The ending leaves something to be desired. However, if you like thrilling, religious dramas, you might like this.(3 / 5)
Check out what else we’re watching here at Haunted MTL!
*All photos from YouTube video.
The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special Live Watch Party February 10th!
The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special, premiering live at 9pm EST.
Love Spells Abound…
Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, we here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo. As is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the live broadcasting of The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder, @therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.
What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.
Horror Noire, a Film Review
Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”
Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.
As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.
The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.
What I Like
Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.
My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.
However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.
What I Dislike
As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.
Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.
Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
(3.5 / 5)
Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.
And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.
Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.
Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship.
Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.
Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar.
At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.
Then, of course, things go bad.
One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.
If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.
This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today.(5 / 5)