“The Devil All the Time” stars Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, and Harry Melling. Released on Netflix on September 16, 2020, the film is about a young man who attempts to protect his loved ones from corruption and brutality.
The film is directed by Antonio Campos, who also directed “Afterschool”, “Simon Killer”, and “Christine”. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. A lot of things can happen after the war, especially when you’re around people with terrifying secrets. This next film from Netflix is another book-to-movie adaptation, and much like “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”, this is a psychological perspective of a situation that will make you feel a bit uncomfortable. Looks like Netflix is starting to become a fan of the genre. This was something that I wanted to check out because of its cast, most notably Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson. Holland has been on the rise since bringing Spider-Man to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Pattinson is still gaining popularity from his fans in his post-Twilight days. Having these two together in a film will surely give the streaming service a respectable amount of views, but is it good enough for me to recommend it?
The story takes place in Southern Ohio and West Virginia after the events of World War II, where we see multiple characters in a series of unnerving and violent events spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s. The characters consists of Arvin Russell (Holland), a young man who is raised by his grandmother after his parents died, Lenora Laferty (Scanlen), Arvin’s step-sister, Carl (Clarke) and Sandy Henderson (Keough), a husband-and-wife murder duo, Sheriff Lee Bodecker (Stan) and Reverend Preston Teagardin (Pattinson), a preacher with a dark side. If you have read the book it’s based on (or read the rating box on the poster), you should already know how twisted and violent this film is going to be. In fact, seeing the film’s title alone would get the viewers to realize that they’re in for a treat, and not the kind that'll leave you feeling satisfied. The film deals with plenty of grim topics like corruption and violence which would’ve make this an experience that’ll leave viewers uncomfortable in a good way. Unfortunately, for me, it turned out to be an experience that’s neither provocative nor disturbing, resulting in an underwhelming thriller that didn’t leave that much of an impact. The only things that I personally enjoy were the cast and Campos’ filmmaking style. As expected, Tom Holland delivered a riveting performance as Arvin, a young man who does what it takes to protect the people he loves. This is another performance that fully captures the feelings of a character inside and out without over-expressing themselves. It’s subtle, but also effective. Robert Pattinson was also very enticing in his role as Preston as well as Clarke and Keough as Carl and Sandy respectively. I also want to point out that the narration in the film is provided by the book’s author himself, Donald Ray Pollock, which I thought was a nice touch for those who want to hear the story from the perspective of the person who wrote it. Antonio Campos has a remarkable style that captures the harsh and bleak reality of the film’s timeline, ranging from its respectable cinematography to its production design. It looks impressive from a filmmaker’s perspective. The problem that lies within it is that in terms of its plot and characters, it lacked an unnerving impact that it was going for. I’m pretty sure that most people will feel uncomfortable with its disturbing nature, but from my personal perspective, it felt like the film didn't have a strong script to go along with its intended nature. It definitely has its share of images that may upset certain people. However, I don't think they’re alarming enough to remain in my brain for hours. It also didn’t help that the film suffered a bit from some of its pacing issues. There were a few scenes that dragged a little bit, but thankfully, they didn’t take me out of the film entirely.
Overall, “The Devil All the Time” is an impressive-looking film that showcases this reality in a depressing way, even though it wasn’t able to wash away some of the sins that it committed during the process. While the film does deliver some remarkable talent onscreen and represents Campos’ stunning filmmaking style, its average screenplay and pacing kept it from reaching its intended potential. I would say it’s watchable for those who read the book, but as I mentioned before, it didn’t leave that much of an impact for me compared to the other films I’ve seen that also have disturbing content.