The Devil All The Time: Is It Worth the Watch?

Recently, I watched the new movie The Devil All The Time on Netflix, and it has honestly been living in my mind rent free.  Just as a disclaimer, this movie has intense scenes that include violence, death, sexual content, nudity, profanity, and creepy spiders.  I will not elaborate on these topics within this spoiler-free review, but those are just some warnings in case you are interested in watching it.

Another honest disclaimer: I barely ever watch movies because I can get bored very quickly, and if I do, I usually don’t look for dark psychological thrillers.  That being said, this movie was truly amazing and riveting.  What originally drew my attention was the star-studded cast, which includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, and Bill Skarsgård, among many other talented actors.  Their work was especially remarkable, as they really brought the storyline to life.  The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same title, written by Donald Ray Pollock (who also narrates the film), and directed by Antonio Campos.  The plot centers around three groups of people living in rural Ohio and West Virginia in 1957, whose storylines converge— the main characters being a World War II veteran named Willard (Skarsgård) and his son Arvin (Holland), a serial killer couple named Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough), and a young reverend named Preston Teagardin (Pattinson).  The central theme of the movie relates to each character’s corruption, which they justify with their devotion to Christianity.  Viewers can see that they do some wild and strange things— ranging from mindless murder, to the sacrifice of loved ones, to prostitution and succumbing to dangerous lust.

I'm not sure what I expected this movie to be like, but it was darker and even more encapsulating than I had hoped.  If I could use one word to describe the experience of watching it, it would be “strange,” but I mean this in a good way.  The plot is undeniably interesting, and the acting had such depth to it that my heart was racing almost the whole time I watched the story unfold.  I think it is rare to find a book or movie in which most of the characters have visible flaws and are not entirely likeable, as opposed to there being one antagonist or “villain”.  The movie also depicts the characters’ pasts pretty clearly, which makes it easier for viewers to understand their life experiences— and in some cases, why they may have plainly evil motives.

Something else that originally struck me was the overall message of the story.  While the plot can be very shocking, after thinking about it more, I can see emphasis on the intense consequences of human actions.  I think that many of the characters’ unfortunate ends could have been avoided if not for their impulsive actions, but it seems that their obligation is only to God’s plan (or what they think it is).  The juxtaposition of Christianity as an underlying theme to combat the ever-present devil emphasizes how the two can possibly cross.  Furthermore, the constant mention of God and the characters’ reliance on the Bible makes each event even more disturbing to me, as they completely disregard its widely accepted meaning.

Even if you are not interested in gothic movies or psychological thrillers, this film is still fascinating.  I have been hearing Robert Pattinson yelling “Delusions!” in a thick Southern accent in my head nonstop because of this movie, if that persuades you at all.  While this may seem funny out of context, it is the perfect word to represent his twisted character.  Or, if you’re a fan of Marvel movies like I am, you can see Tom Holland and Sebastian Stan fight with each other again.  On a more serious note, one haunting quote that has stuck with me comes from Sheriff Lee (Stan), in which he tells the young main character Arvin that “Some people are born just so they can be buried.”  The Devil All The Time truly epitomizes this, giving it an air of existentialism towards the end.  As viewers, we can decide the significance of each tragedy, as well as if there was any good reason for each instance of human suffering— when no one can escape the devil or death in some cases.  I definitely think this film is worth the watch, especially if you’re ready to sit back and wonder about how and why we meet our ends through the lens of a dark tale.

Watch the trailer here.