(director/writer: Theo Love; screenwriter: Bryan Storkel; cinematographer: Britton Foster; editors: Theo Love/Bryan Storkel/Amy Bandlier Storkel/Andrew Mcallister; music: Michael James Lee; cast: Brian Brightman (Glenn’s stepdad), Erin Carere (Darlene), Bobby Carson (Ambulance driver), Dr. Thomas Burton; Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Theo Love/Bryan Storkel; HBO DocumentaryFilms; 2020)

“Shocking serviceable Appalachian-related folk-lore crime documentary.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Theo Love (“The legend of Cocaine Island”/”Little Hope was Arson”) produces and directs this shocking serviceable Appalachian-related folk-lore crime documentary. It’s based on a true story of a snake handler Pentecostal minister in Scottsboro, Alabama, Glenn Summerford, who is convicted and sentenced to 129 years for the attempted murder of his second wife Darleen by snake bite, as by gunpoint he allegedly forced her on October 4, 1991, to pick-up a snake he kept in a cage for his church services and she was bitten twice. After recovering, she made her accusation against him and then testified against him at the trial.

The cult religion’s belief system is based on the book of Mark that says:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” The worshipers demonstrate their faith by holding up rattlesnakes during their service and believe if they have the Holy Ghost in them they won’t get bitten or if bitten won’t be harmed.

Dr. Thomas Burton, an historian on Appalachian folklore, analyses the event as its reenacted and talks a lot without saying much or adding anything significant to the investigation.

Glenn claims Darlene was a troubled woman and a liar, who slept with another preacher and slept with his two teenager sons from his first marriage. While she says he was a heavy drinker, with a violent past, who was abusive when drunk.

It’s an absurd religion the convicted killer was part of, the Church of Jesus With Signs, and his life story is a troubling one. The 76-year-old is still imprisoned but hopeful he will be paroled soon.

The film offered nothing new to overturn the court’s guilty verdict. Delving into Glenn’s life might have let us see how screwed-up he was and his attempt to redeem himself by becoming a minister in such a snaky religion left me unimpressed with him, Darlene, his church or the film.

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REVIEWED ON 12/17/2020  GRADE: C+