Saturday, 30 November 2019

Review: Them That Follow

Them That Follow
Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. Dan Madison Savage & Britt Poulton / Trailer

An understated oddity now, in the shape of Them That Follow, a drama centering on tensions in a small religious community in present-day America who believe in proving their worthiness before God by communing with rattlesnakes; if you don’t get bitten, that means you’re pure*1.

It would be easy to make a shrieking affair of this fairly wide target*2, but what Dan Madison Savage and Britt Poulton bring instead is more a character/social study. There are definite notes of folk-horror, but the monsters here are all human and the only supernatural element is the old-fashioned deity to which the town is so slavishly penitent.

The film is visually quiet, but there's an air of grim urgency. We learn of our protagonist’s pivotal circumstances early on, setting the ticking countdown timer for the rest of the film. For the most part there's no real escalation, the film just simmers constantly then boils over in its third act.

As well as the efficiently oppressive cinematography, there's some great sound design. The audience hears every creaking floorboard and faltering breath between dialogue which is a masterclass in subtext and double-meaning, delivered with absolute conviction by an enthusiastically downbeat cast.

On a filmmaking level, Them That Follow is great, but I'm not sure if I can say I actually enjoyed it, and I have no idea who I'd recommend it to. Other than yourself, dear reader…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
This has the quiet fatalism of A Ghost Story, the pacing of It Comes At Night and the foreboding of Mandy (before that film goes absolutely mental).

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Unless you're actively excited to see it, probably not.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Hard to say, but everyone's on very solid form here.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Kaitlyn Dever is in this, and she was in that Booksmart with Billie 'Connix' Lourd.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although 'trial-by-rattlesnake' feels like something of an evolutionary cul-de-sac, although I suspect the type of people who'd go in for it wouldn't believe in that in the first place. I mean evolution, not cul-de-sacs. They're easily provable. Oh hang on, so is evolution. Ah well, as you were. [ BACK ]

*2 I mean it's not like they're luddites or anything. There's a microwave shown in the kitchen and they use power-tools to amputate limbs when the need arises. Speaking of which Terry, you're going to cut right into that kitchen table. At least put a chopping board down or something. Jesus was a carpenter, he's probably going to be the most pissed off about what you're doing, think on. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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