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Snake Handling explained by the Snake Handlers
17 August 2012 | by (West Lothian, United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a fairly short (40 odd minutes) but very interesting film about snake handlers in the Southern US. I found this film by accident after reading Dennis Covington's book Salvation on Sand Mountain which deals with the same subject. I typed in a few names from the book and found the film freely available on You Tube.

Many of the people featured in Convington's book appear in this film and in fact you realise that the snake handling community is in fact very small and they all seem to know or know of each other. To me the people interview struck me as genuine fairly normal people who you would not have looked twice at if not for the snake handling.

The film is purely footage of snake handling services with interviews with those taking part explaining their beliefs. There is no commentary and no judgement for or against their practices. While this means there is a lack of background it also allows those involved to describe there beliefs without any judgement. To my mind there is no doubt that these people believe what they say. It is not done for show or for the outside world. The fact that so many people they know have been bitten and many died shows their conviction.

While Covington's words describe the fervour that builds during the services aided by the droning electric guitar and country/blues/rock gospel music this film shows how the people becoming more and more caught up in the moment. I found myself wishing I could be there to witness it in person (although I had no desire to touch any snakes).

The film also features the now infamous Glenn Summerford, a snake handling preacher, who is now in prison serving 99 years for trying to kill his wife. This film has nothing to do with that case. However that case does help to date the material. Their is very little on the internet about this film and IMDb claims the film was made in 2001 but according to Folkstreams website it was made by Al Clayton in 1991. This is the year of Summerford's fall from grace. As Summerford is still a free man in the film and the case is not mentioned it is safe to assume that this is correct and it was filmed pre October 1991. It also suggests that at least some if not all of it was filmed in Alabama, Summerford's home.

My only slight complaint about the film is that it does not show more of the day to day life of the people but I guess thats not the point of the film. Covington's book does give a lot more background on the lives of the people while "In Jesus Name" allows you to see inside the actual snake handling services so vividly described by Covington. So for that reason I think they are good companion pieces to each other.


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