“Though he hadn’t talked to God in years, not a single petition or word of praise since he’d come across the crucified Marine. Willard could feel it welling up inside him now, the urge to get right with his maker, before something bad happened to his family.”Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time
Release Date: September 16th, 2020 | Director: Antonio Campos
The Devil All the Time follows two generations of the Russell family. Willard Russell returns from war to marry the love of his life and start a family. After a few years, tragedy strikes, leaving Willard’s son, Arvin, an orphan. Moving back to live with his grandmother and another orphaned girl, Arvin becomes extremely protective of his new family. A new pastor arrives in his hometown and begins to partake in some sinister activities. As tragedy strikes his family, the same darkness that consumes his father threatens to consume Alvin. Meanwhile, a couple travels the country taking photographs of dead bodies. The woman’s brother, the Sheriff of a small town, is wrapped up in some illegal activities and her activities threaten his campaign for reelection. These three seemingly different stories all meet in a climax that will force you to lock the doors a little tighter and will dissuade you from hitchhiking.
This movie requires a strong stomach. The horror in this movie doesn’t come from cheap jump scares or evil spirits, but rather takes a concept that is meant to spread good in the world and twists it to justify evil acts. It’s a cool concept, I will acknowledge. But, I did think that this book really didn’t translate well to the screen. As a rule of thumb, any movie where narration is not absolutely necessary (such as The Princess Diaries), shouldn’t have it. I will grant that this movie’s narration was consistent but it was so jarring. The movie would take a deep dive into a sinister concept and then, because a scene required some creative filmwork/depictions, it would rely too heavily on narration. I would’ve liked to see Arvin follow the preacher, not hear it. I was informed that this was originally opted to be a mini-series and at first I was hesitant about the concept, but if the narration was turned into actual screen time with the actors, then maybe a mini-series would’ve been a better option. In short, show don’t tell.
The good parts of the movie included the acting and costumes. Tom Holland’s accent was flawless and I was extremely impressed by his range. In Arvin Russell, I saw none of Peter Parker. Holland really seemed to embrace his dark side. Eliza Scanlan portrayed the pious girl touched by darkness extremely well and even though her screen time was short, she made a lasting impact. Sebastian Stan shedded Bucky Barnes and Carter Baizen to embrace a dark side that was barely brushed upon in Winter Soldier. Stan playing darker characters is something that I would like to see (especially since Bucky Barnes didn’t really end up being a villain). Stan’s costume included a pretty convincing fat suit that disguised him well and pushed him further away from the MCU. Then, there was Robert Pattinson. I read in an interview that Pattinson refused to use a dialect coach and I have nothing more to say than: it shows. His acting by itself was phenomenal, proving that he is also capable of taking relatively diverse roles. His screen chemistry with Tom Holland was rather impressive, but I really couldn’t get over the dialect. His voice was three octaves too high and it made him seem a little more comical than sinister.
Overall, I think the book is probably a smarter use of your time than the movie. While the cast leaves nothing to be desired, the script and narration take away from a story that could’ve been much more compelling. This movie, for all its gruesome tactics, forgets that the main purpose of a film is to tell a story and this story is lost amongst confusing and vague scenes. I recommend this movie for anyone who likes psychological thrillers and some big name actors.