Review: What Hollywood Gets Right About Snake-Handling Christians

The sincere portrayal in “Them That Follow” gives mainstream believers perspective on the real oddity of our faith.

mpaa rating:R


Directed By: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage

Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Walton Goggins, Olivia Colman, Lewis Pullman

Theatre Release:August 02, 2019 by 1091 Media

If movies have taught us anything—think Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jungle Book, even Snakes on a Plane—it’s that snakes are not to be trusted. For Christians, it’s a lesson that goes back to the Garden itself.

Filmmakers hoping to offer a sympathetic depiction of these animals face quite the challenge. But that’s exactly what co-writer and co-director Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage manage to do in their recently released film Them That Follow.

In the hands of this capable storytelling duo, snakes are not the terror many imagine them to be, though a very real threat to life and limb. Rather, they are beautiful, albeit seriously misunderstood, creatures.

It is also difficult to paint a sympathetic picture of something as misunderstood, and often equally reviled, as Pentecostal snake handling. But Poulton and Savage demonstrate the same kind of care and concern for these people of faith as they do the serpents they handle.

Them That Follow tells the story of Mara (played by Alice Englert), the daughter of snake-handling pastor Lemuel (Walton Goggins). Early in the film, Mara pledges herself to be married to Garrett (Lewis Pullman), the spirit-filled young man being groomed by Lemuel, even though she is pregnant with the child of Augie (Thomas Mann), the wayward son whom she really loves.

All told then, Them That Follow is a coming-of-age love story. But it’s also more than that, in large part because it offers a rare glimpse into a world of Christian faith and practice that will strike many viewers as strange and unfamiliar, even evangelical Christians.

The filmmakers could have easily sensationalized this practice, but they go to great lengths to do the opposite. The camera lingers over the …

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