A charismatic, fanatical preacher; a snake-handling cult in Appalachia…and a romantic triangle that involves an unplanned pregnancy.
Them that Follow might have been a good movie. It was certainly well-acted. Olivia Colman, Walton Goggins (of Justified fame) and Australian actress Alice Englert certainly did their best to breathe life into a turkey of a script.
In the end, though, they couldn’t pull it off. The characters in Them that Follow consistently behaved in ways that few human beings actually would.
(Spoiler alert): Here’s an example: After one of the main characters is bitten by a rattlesnake, there is a kitchen-table amputation scene that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. (There are hospitals in West Virginia, too.)
The premise of the film seemed to be: People in Appalachian America are unremittingly ignorant, gullible, and prone to religious fanaticism.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Appalachia: in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This area of the country certainly has its problems. For at least a century now, Appalachia has suffered from a dearth of economic opportunities and depopulation. Ambitious young people tend to leave and haul stakes for the city—just like my grandfather left Adams County, Ohio for Cincinnati in 1939. The rural drug epidemic of recent years has only made things worse.
But the people of Appalachia, in my experience (and again, I do have actual experience in Appalachia), are not the irrational simpletons depicted in Them that Follow.
The biggest problem with Them that Follow, however, was that it was…boring. The plot meandered; and it was difficult to discern who you were supposed to root for, what was actually going on.
On the plus side, the film did consistently project a dark, bleak atmosphere, which seems to have been the whole point of the thing, anyway.
I would give this one 2.5 out of three stars. Not awful, but not very good, either.