October 27, 2020
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‘The Devil All the Time’ illuminates a twisted tale for saints and sinners

By Esther Morales
Reviews Editor

The highly anticipated psychological thriller “The Devil All the Time” hit Netflix on Sept. 16 to a wave of die-hard Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson fans. The film is directed by Antonio Campos, and the story is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by author Donald Ray Pollock. 

The movie is set in the 1950s and ‘60s, and takes place in the small blue-collar towns of Knockemstiff, Ohio, and Coal Creek, West Virginia. Along the way, we meet a crooked cop, hopelessly misguided and devout Christians, a sinister couple and a young man with a determination to carry out justice all while trying to navigate through the continuous evils he encounters. 

There was something about this film that kept me intrigued. It served up great shock value with its often disturbingly graphic scenes, violence and gruesome tragedies, while continuing to tug at my heartstrings. The movie in turn explores untraditional family dynamics and faith in a higher power. 

I didn’t expect to love this movie as much as I did. The film piqued my curiosity for the same reason as most: the A-list cast made up of Holland, Pattinson, Sebastian Stan and Bill Skarsgård. But it was the ominous tone and shocking chain of events that made it hard to look away for the two-hour plus run. 

“The Devil All the Time” is exceptionally well-paced considering the length of the film. The movie unravels the several main characters’ stories in non-chronological order, allowing viewers to piece together theories and connections as the film goes on. It doesn’t garner as much mystery as it does drama compared to many of Campos’ previous works, but the intricate intermingling of plot lines is a testament to the writing in the novel. 

I applaud the film’s use of voiceover narration that was done by none other than Pollock, the book’s original author. It progressed the film from a third-person lens which served as an omnipotent bridge to the different religious aspects included in the story, like hearing the voice of God. 

‘The Devil All the Time’ is partly inspired by true events from the life of writer Donald Ray Pollock (Twitter).

One of the film’s main storylines followed Arvin Eugene Russell (Holland), a young man whose life has been filled with substantial loss, and who will go to great lengths to protect his loved ones. The majority of the characters in this movie are in some form or another inherently sinister or disturbed, leaving me surprised by how well Holland portrayed his character in a darker, more twisted film than any of his past roles. 

Alongside Holland, Pattinson, who plays Reverend Preston Teagardin — a crooked, unholy pastor — delivers an impeccable performance. My only critique would be his questionable attempt at a southern accent. Compared to the rest of the cast, it felt a bit forced and, at some points, came across comedic, which is very contradictory to his character. 

For fans of horror, dramas and thrillers, I can’t recommend watching “The Devil All the Time” enough. The unnerving film is jam-packed with incredible talent and a captivating story — not a bad way to spend your night.

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