In ‘The Devil All the Time,’ no one is spared

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-in-Chief

3/5 Globes


The star-studded cast of one of Netflix’s latest releases, ‘The Devil All the Time,’ directed by Anthony Campos, is sure to draw in many viewers. But this film moves quickly and does very little to dote on the talent it employs.

Instead, ‘The Devil All the Time,’ which is based off of a novel by Donald Ray Pollock (who also narrates the film), is a two-hour and 18-minute long spiral into the consequences of war, organized religion and unresolved trauma. 

The film is set in the region of Appalachia between the fictional city of Meade, Ohio and Cold Creek, West Virginia, and it takes place during the 1950’s and ‘60’s. It focuses on Arvin Russell, played by the young and innocent Tom Holland, in his quest to punish the “no good sons of b*tches” that exist in the world and protect those he loves. Arvin’s father, Willard (Bill Skarsgard), is a World War II veteran, forever plagued by the horrors of war and convinced that through the power of prayer and sacrifice, God will provide. 

Other characters in the film include Reverend Preston Teagardin, played by Robert Pattinson (who comes prepared with a slimy, nasally southern drawl), a preacher who epitomizes a less-than-holy Christian figure. There’s also Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), Arvin’s adopted step-sister, the film’s one and only beacon of innocence, as well as the sinister, murderous couple of Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough). Sebastian Stan is also a standout as the corrupt sheriff, Lee Bodecker.

And there are even more unsavory characters, yet.

‘The Devil All the Time’ is incredibly dark for the entirety of its duration. The film is a bit flat because of this. Rather than being a roller coaster of an experience with emotional turns and plot twists, it is a steady downhill decline that only gets gradually steeper as it goes. 

Visually, the film nears perfection. It is evident that much care and attention to detail was placed in everything from the set design, the locations, costumes, makeup, etc. In this way, the film draws viewers into the world of mid-twentieth century American Appalachia, and it doesn’t let go. 

Holland is incredible in his role, and his character, Arvin, is one that viewers can’t help rooting for, despite the fact that he is not the upstanding picture of Christian perfection that other characters wish him to be. The film is unrelenting in its treatment of Arvin, as it is with the rest of its characters. The second half of the film is where many of them meet their fates, which are often the result of the influence of evil, be it through war, hypocrisy, lies or misplaced devotion.

‘The Devil All the Time’ is not a feel-good film. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is violent, explicit, haunting and disturbing (it does well to earn its ‘R’ rating). 

However, this film is fascinating. And it strategically challenges the idea that America in the ‘50’s was a post-war, suburban utopia, as it is often portrayed to be. ‘The Devil All the Time’ is sure to stick in viewers’ minds, be it for one reason or another. Anyone viewing who is purely a fan of Holland, Pattinson, Skarsgard or any other cast member should go forth with caution, because this film is challenging, and there are very few characters who should be idolized or romanticized. For anyone else looking for a dark film to get absolutely lost in, ‘The Devil All the Time’ is the flick for you.