Love among snake handlers

By Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News
Walton Goggins plays a preacher in “Them That Follow.”

A dark tale of twisted religious belief and familial deceit, “Them That Follow” is a classic love triangle set in a dysfunctional backwoods community.

And while the three actors involved in that triangle all do fine, subdued work, they are inevitably overshadowed by two explosive actors – Walton Goggins and recent Oscar winner Olivia Colman -- in supporting roles.

Throw in teen indie stalwart Kaitlyn Dever, superb in another supporting role, and it too often seems like the camera is following the wrong people.

The film’s center is Alice Englert as Mara, the devout daughter of a mountaintop preacher (Goggins) who ministers to a small, cultish congregation. Among his disciples is Garret (a creepy Lewis Pullman), who intends to marry Mara.

Unfortunately Mara is secretly pregnant by non-believer Augie (Thomas Mann). Colman plays Augie’s mother, a woman with a dark background who’s been saved by Christian fervor.

How much fervor? These people handle snakes. And if the snakes bite them, well, survival is up to the holy spirit, no doctors needed.

The film goes for restrained horror, but there’s simply no holding Goggins or Colman back; their desperate, committed characters cry out for films of their own.

Goggins has played hillbilly preacher types before, but here his character is completely sincere and far more interesting for it. Colman was last seen playing the Queen of England, yet somehow she’s completely natural and enthralling as a woman clinging to hinterland wisdom.

“Them That Follow” is the sort of perfectly acceptable film that nevertheless leaves you wondering how great it could have been.

“Them That Follow”


Rated R for some disturbing violence

Running time: 98 minutes

Them That Follow (R)

A grim backwoods love triangle story elevated by supporting actors Walton Goggins and Olivia Colman. (98 minutes) Tom Long/Special to The Detroit News GRADE: B-