Cast: Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Alice Englert, Jim Gaffigan
Directors: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage
I know Them That Follow wasn’t exactly the most prized film after 2019’s Sundance Film Festival, but realistically it should’ve been able to compete with any of the heavy hitters in Utah. The one thing I really look for when evaluating a movie is a semblance of realism in the plot. Even in genres like superhero or horror where none of these events can happen in the real world, if the environment is created where the actions and consequences make sense it works within the context of the movie. Because of the variety and rawness of the plot and the performances in Them That Follow, we get a thriller that shows a very real side of religion and the consequences that come with that.
The film follows Mara Childs (Englert), a young woman who lives in a cult-like Christian community in the Appalachian mountains led by her Lemuel (Walton Goggins). When she discovers that she’s pregnant, she must maneuver her way through the community without them discovering her secret or she’ll have to face the potentially lethal consequences. When I mentioned the importance of realism earlier, this film perfectly understands this concept and creates an environment that is both unsettling and realistic for 98 minutes. There are cults like this in the real world and even though they may not use the exact practices done by this community, it shows just how dangerous hyper-exposure to religion can be on a group of people. This element is also what helps Goggins give one of the top villainous performances of the year. This is a man who sees himself as the hero of his own story and will do whatever it takes to spread the word of God. It’s incredibly creepy to see someone manipulate religion for their own benefit, and Goggins comes across as just as deceptive and evil as pastors who preach prosperity gospel and ride around in private jets. If you replaced God with any other non-widely accepted deity, everyone in this community would call them heathens and backwards, but when it fits their beliefs it’s completely fine. These events may not be happening every single day in communities like this, but even as a piece of fiction Them That Follow serves as a warning to the dangers and consequences of letting religion control every aspect of your life. I can’t find anything on the directors, but if this is their directorial and writing debut then I’m absolutely looking forward to anything they put out in the future. With a loaded cast that is balanced and finds a good rhythm quickly, Them That Follows creates a mood and a reality that may offend some and reaffirm the beliefs of others while entertaining them. Super religious viewers are better off sticking to Pure Flix movies that cater to their belief systems, but those more in the center or left will find value in the performances and the overall ominous tone surrounding Them That Follow.
Overall, when you have a couple of up-and-coming actors combined with an Academy Award winner, you have a natural recipe for success and that’s exactly what happens in Them That Follow. Goggins has truly evolved in this movie going from some of his past roles as “generic action villain” to a truly horrifying human being in this performance. I hope he continues down this route as he’s shown just how easily he can transform a movie when given the opportunity to unleash his full potential. Them That Follow definitely has a lean to it and will alienate some audiences as a result of it, but those who are open-minded will be rewarded with an exciting and shocking take on a very true reality.
Overall Score: 7.5/10