The Devil All The Time is directed by Antonio Campos and it is based off the book by the same name written by Donald Ray Pollock. The story follows the lives of several people in the small town of Knockemstiff, Ohio. Their stories all intertwine to bring with it this incredibly dark and shocking story about religion, reputation and essentially… evil. The movie features an ensemble cast starring Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård, Eliza Scanlen, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough.
SPOILERS FOR THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME ARE FEATURED IN THIS REVIEW
Like most people the only thing that enticed me about this movie was the cast. Everyone had a different reason to watch it, my reason was Tom Holland. I like the rest of the cast but there was something so exciting about seeing nice guy Tom Holland smoke, swear and beat the shit out of people. In all seriousness though, I feel like he’s one of the only actors from Marvel to actually carve out a separate career other than their superhero role. The trailer didn’t really interest me but then the movie came out and it just so happened that I didn’t have anything to watch that day so I decided to start it purely out of curiousity. You can imagine my surprise when I’m thirty minutes in and Holland has yet to appear. The fact that this movie is abysmally dark didn’t help in the slightest either.
The Devil All The Time really took me for a rollercoaster of emotions. I started out hating this movie, so much to the point where I stopped watching. A few days later my curiousity got the better of me and I gave it another shot then Holland enters the picture, literally. It is only when the movie shifts into it’s present time 1965 that I actually got invested. Having got used to the dark tone, I felt like I knew what I was in for but this movie kept throwing me for a loop each time it did something shocking. Looking back this movie feels like shock after shock, it is so hellbent on shocking the audience that it never really stops doing it. On that note, I can’t really decide whether it was smart of them to do that or if it was a cheap move. Either way they got me.
Part of why the movie got me is because of the characters. They execute such revolting ideas that it shocked and disgusted me and made me question if some people can really go that dark a place. The movie deals heavily with religion and while I had a semi-religious childhood, I grew out of it but not to the point of atheism, I would say I’m more along the lines of being agnostic. That being said, seeing religion being used in such a disgusting way put a bad taste in my mouth. Obviously there are some people who reason like the characters in this movie unfortunately but the only person who believed in God completely and blindly bit the dust. Then again so did every other character so my point lost it’s reason. I guess my point is that religion plays a very pivotal role in the movie and while it never benefits anyone, it’s also not disregarding religion. It’s showing this one side of it and how certain people can twist and manipulate it and while the movie does it in a very vulgar way, it’s also realistic which makes it compelling.
The other reason why the movie compelled me was because of how refreshingly unusual it was. It’s unlike any movie I’ve seen in the past couple years. In fact I wouldn’t even compare this to a movie but a miniseries becasue in terms of tone and pace it reminded me a lot of Sharp Objects. Seeing as my first (and only) viewing was mostly me reacting to the shock value, I didn’t really take note of the structure and the actual quality. The movie doesn’t really have anything to say by the end. I guess the only way to make sense of what I’m about to say is that this movie acts like Love, Actually. Yes, Love, Actually. The characters’ stories are all intertwined and the way it’s carried out is clever even if it’s incredibly convenient at times. That being said, Love, Actually tied these themes with the message of love and family at the end. In the end of The Devil All The Time, Arvin is quite literally the last one standing as the other characters all died. The movie ends with him but it ends on an ambiguous note, it satisfies as an ending to this story but it doesn’t really say anything. Arvin never really factored into the religious themes, he just wanted justice and once that’s done the movie ends.
Having seen the movie I can now say that I came for Tom Holland but I stayed for the movie. It’s really weird the more I think about this movie, the more I like it. That being said how were the performances? Fantastic. Tom Holland was excellent. I cannot wait to see what he does next. I never saw Peter Parker or Spider-Man, I saw Arvin. I have to also give credit to who casted him because while I already cared for Arvin, Holland brought that added layer of charm and I don’t think a lot of actors can do that; to instantly bring more depth to the character because of who they are. The rest of the cast is great, Bill Skarsgård is scarily realistic as Arvin’s father. Jason Clarke makes me uncomfortable on and off-screen so this role fit him like a glove. Robert Pattinson does his thing and he does it well. I can’t really put into words what his performance is like. Sebastian Stan’s character was very unnecessary and I feel the movie would’ve benefited cutting him off.
Overall The Devil All The Time is definitely a movie I’ll be thinking of a lot in the next couple of days. I can’t say a ton of movies have done that this year. While extraordinarily dark and grim, it offered a change of pace compared to the latest movies I’ve seen. In fact it being so dark and different is what will make it stand out. However, I can’t say I will ever revisit it, I will definitely revisit certain scenes like the masterfully intense church showdown but other than that, it’s just a well-acted and shocking movie that I’ll appreciate from afar.