The latest Netflix film, The Devil All the Time, has been generating a significant amount of buzz ahead of its September release. Filled to the brim with a star-studded cast, (featuring Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough and Jason Clarke), the film had audiences desperately eager to see if the movie could rise to its potential.
While the cast may suggest that the audience is in for a blockbuster, the movie instead delivers as more of a psychological thriller that keeps the audience guessing throughout the entirety of its run time.
The Devil All the Time centers primarily around two small towns in the mid 1900s: the town of Meade and Knockemstiff, Ohio. The audience follows the lives of two families from the 1940s to the mid 1960s. During this time, we are able to see how the decisions of the older generation directly impact their children.
The film begins by focusing on the character of Willard Russell, played by Bill Skarsgård. Willard, after returning from the brutality of WWII, is passing through the town of Meade when he falls head over heels for a waitress named Charlotte (Haley Bennett). Willard and Charlotte eventually get married and start their life in the near-by town of Knockemstiff.
While married, Willard has a spiritual conversion and sets up a make-shift church in his backyard. Willard and Charlotte eventually have a son, Arvin. Arvin is played by Michael Banks Repta in his youth. A young Arvin and Willard are shocked when Charlotte begins to succumb to cancer. As an act of faith, Willard decides to offer a blood offering to the Lord to save his wife. In doing so, he sacrifices the family dog and hangs it on a cross, scarring Arvin for life.
Struck with grief, Willard takes his own life and Arvin is forced to move to live with his grandmother in West Virginia. In West Virginia, Arvin, (now portrayed by Holland) grows up with his new stepsister Lenora.
Years before, Lenora’s mother had fallen for the local town preacher. The preacher, after a hallucination caused from a spider bite, believes that he is told by God to kill his wife and attempt a resurrection. After following through on his plan, he rushes away from the town and leaves his daughter with the Russell family.
From this point, we see how the sins of both orphans’ fathers haunt the children in their youth. The film takes a deep look at religion and what it means to truly be a “good person.” Holland’s character, scarred by the events of his youth, falls away from Christianity completely. Despite this, he seems to be one of the only moral characters that we see. Robert Pattinson, for example, portrays a slimy preacher who uses his power to seduce young women.
The Devil All the Time certainly attempts to pull off a difficult task. The film’s director, Antonio Campos, is tasked with weaving together all of these stories to bring the film to a fulfilling ending. At certain times, the task seems to prove to be too daunting. Certain characters, such as Stan’s portrayal of a corrupt police officer in the town of Knockemstiff, don’t really get their due.
That being said, the film does a great job at keeping the audience engaged and ties up the story in a satisfying way. On top of this, brilliant performances from Pattinson and Eliza Scanlen, (who portrays Lenora), make the film stand out.
The Devil All the Time gets 4 stars out of 5.