New to Neflix: ‘The Devil All the Time’ Review
Netflix has been effectively building a strong catalog of films, and luckily COVID hasn’t slowed them down. Their latest addition released on September 16th, ‘The Devil All the Time‘, directed by Antonio Campos and based off of a novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollack, is a crime noir that’s sure to, at some point, make you think “this is one sick f—ing movie”.
The story follows young Arvin Russell, beginning at a young age and right up into early manhood, as he struggles with living in a small, hyper religious town in Ohio that’s full of evil and corruption. The writing weaves together a web of different stories, following various characters who claim to be a person of faith in some capacity, building up to an ending where these stories converge together in a violent and sinister way. We follow crooked preachers that use their positions of power in their communities to do corrupt and awful things, a crooked cop who does questionable things to further his career, a couple who drive around picking up hitch hikers to meet their imminent demise and a slew of God-fearing town folk who inadvertently get caught up in the mayhem.
As we watch Arvin age, we see a drastic shift in his character, most notably what seems to be him distancing himself from his faith. Throughout the movie, he witnesses a lot of just downright horrific things, including the deaths (and sometimes outright murder) of just about everyone he loves. While practically every other character in the film is somehow drawn closer to their religion and the church after also being affected by these things, he seems to struggle with relating to those around him.
The story of ‘The Devil All the Time’ has some extremely heavy themes that are sure to disturb you, but also make you think, which is the best part of the film. Religion and faith take the front seat, as we watch some people desperately do anything and everything to fulfill what they believe God wants of them, and for some that somehow ends up including suicide and murder. We also see how some of the most sinister characters claim to be God loving to win the trust of actually decent people only to lead them down a dark and twisted past. There is also the heavy theme of people in positions of influence and power, people that communities are convinced they can trust, are always capable of being corrupted or abusing their power. There are so many layers to dissect and analyze, it will have you thinking about it for days.
The movie thus far has received mixed reviews from critics, which I was surprised to find out after seeing it. Personally, I thought it was really well done – the directing and general ominous mood of the film was extremely well done, the acting was superb and very convincing and as someone raised in Ohio, I felt it captured small town life very well. The writing and structure of the story was also impressive, managing to weave together a handful of characters without becoming overburdening or difficult to follow. I was also thoroughly impressed with Robert Pattinson’s performance as Preston Teagardin, the communities new preacher with his own hidden agenda.
It is a very slow burn type of film, taking it’s time to build the narrative, displaying character development and revealing the true motives of characters that have something sinister to hide. Clocking in at 2 hours and 18 minutes, ‘The Devil All the Time’ can be a bit of a lengthy undertaking, but by the end of it, I felt it wouldn’t have worked as a shorter movie. The slow progression also helps to highlight the truly depraved scenes, making you have a bit of an “oh shit!” reaction when you finally find out just how sick the characters can get.
Above all, ‘The Devil All the Time’ is absolutely worth the watch. My biggest critique would be the way it all comes together in the end felt a bit anti-climactic, but not to the point of rendering it unwatchable. As someone who has struggled with their faith (and subsequently lack there of) most of my life, there was a lot that spoke to me. It shamelessly toys with the idea of who is good and who is evil which makes for a fascinating narrative. I initially went into it expecting a horror movie (and many of you Loud News Net readers know I love me some Netflix horror films) but ended up getting so much more.
Grab a friend, light one up and give this one a shot. It’s sure to give you a lot to talk about and pick apart once you make it to the end.