'The Devil All the Time' Movie Review

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I have jumped at any opportunity to see a new movie release this year, which is what excited me about the release of Netflix Original film, The Devil All the Time. Upon viewing the trailer over a month ago, I was struck first by the cast. This movie is full of recognizable names from Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen, Jason Clarke and Sebastian Stan. This, paired with the mysteriously thrilling and violent mood portrayed throughout the trailer made this a highly anticipated release for me. The following is my review for the film with no major spoilers.

This film received an R rating for a reason. Please consider the following before watching: violence, bloody/disturbing images, sexual content, graphic nudity and language. There are scenes of self-harm and violent sexual acts throughout.

  1. 1. Synopsis

    The Devil All the Time is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by author Donald Ray Pollock. Adapted by brothers Antonio and Paulo Campos, this story spans multiple generations from 1945 to 1965 in the two quaint midwestern towns of Knockemstiff, Ohio and Coal Creek, West Virginia (I was pleased to find out that Knockemstiff is a real town in Ohio.) Though there are several characters and storylines throughout, the spine of this film follows the father and son duo of Willard (Bill Skarsgård) and Arvin (Tom Holland) as they attempt to protect their loved ones from sinister forces that find them at every turn.

  2. 2. The Devil at Play

    Director Antonio Campos describes this film as a “midwestern gothic,” offering a twist on the classic southern gothic genre. It is a blend of crime drama and gothic thriller with the slow drawl that is often characterized in midwestern culture. At the core of this story is the theme of religion, specifically Christianity, and how extreme beliefs can be deadly as each character has their beliefs challenged. The abuse of power and the feeling of vulnerability in one’s beliefs motivate the extreme action of each character. As Willard and Arvin encounter each character, their faith is tested. Though this is not a horror movie, it often feels like one, exposing how religion can be haunting.

  3. 3. Don't Be Delusional

    The numerous stars in this cast may draw an audience of people who would watch anything that their favorite actor is in. If you are one of these individuals, I would advise you to evaluate if this is the movie for you. You should be aware that this film is a severe departure from the roles many of them have played in the past and each character’s screen time is limited due to the large number of characters and storylines present.

  4. 4. Iconic Portrayals

    With this incredible cast, it should not be surprising that they each deliver a great performance, with Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson as standouts. Pattinson manages to play his character so well that I actually hated him throughout the movie (a warning to his fans). His accent play and grandiose performance as Reverend Teagardin make his performance electric. Scenes with Pattinson and Holland together are captivating and full of dread. Holland’s performance opposite Eliza Scanlen as Lenora is emotional, showcasing their chanced sibling connection with strength and authenticity. This connection between characters was one of the few that I felt was given enough time on screen to develop fully. Other important duos such as Willard (Bill Skarsgård) and Charlotte (Haley Bennett) have great chemistry that feels underexplored. Skarsgård is equal parts effortlessly charming and devastatingly terrifying in his portrayal of a man who feels a fearful pain towards his faith. Opposite Skarsgård and Bennett is a young Arvin with a great performance from Michael Banks Repeta.

  5. 5. Potential Sins

    The recurring duo of Sandy (Riley Keough) and Carl (Jason Clarke) is where this movie turns grim. The pair is an interesting addition to the intriguing cast of characters, but also is mostly to blame for the common critique that this movie leans towards being baselessly violent. If this film were instead a series, I think this aspect could be explored in a way that would make their storyline more integral to the plot. It also offers the discussion once again of the power Netflix has over censorship and ratings, as its original films are not forced to satisfy a standard theatrical audience by cutting out as much graphic or violent imagery. Although this is great for directors and creators who want to show their film as they intended it to be, it can also be jarring for audiences who are used to seeing what is considered an R rating in theaters versus what it can mean on Netflix. There are several graphic moments in this film that could be seen as unnecessary and overly grotesque.

  6. 6. Faithful Adaptation

    As previously mentioned, I believe that this story could be more effective as a series. With so many interesting characters, some storylines felt underdeveloped as they did not impact the main story at play. To have more time with each character to really understand their motivations would have made this a very effective story. The Campos brothers mention in this video how difficult the adaptation of the novel was and how much they had to cut from the original story. Pollock’s story does not feel like it was poorly represented, as the film takes time to pay homage to Pollock, making him the voice of the narrator who guides the audience through the story and calling back to his short stories that put him on the map by making his hometown of Knockemstiff the main setting for the film instead of Meade, Ohio as it is in the novel.

Although it has its flaws, The Devil All the Time is somehow both a fun and horrific watch, captivating audiences who let the story in like an intriguing true crime case. All of the performances are daring and strong, where these offbeat characters could easily come across as clunky and forced. If you are interested in a gothic crime thriller that takes you on a ride through two unique midwestern towns and two generations riddled with bad luck and violent tendencies, you should add The Devil All the Time to your watchlist. Available to stream on Netflix now.