Everyone’s a sinner in “The Devil All the Time”

Film review for Tom Holland’s newest Netflix movie

~Diane Frola, Staff Writer~

Warning: This review contains spoilers 

The new Netflix movie “The Devil All the Time” (2020) weaves religion and violence into small-town America, leaving you feeling uneasy and thoughtful. The movie is based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, who conveniently is also the narrator of the film. The story tries to pack in a monstrous concept and a full cast of characters into two hours, and it does not quite hit the mark. Filled with sacrificed dogs, failed resurrections, serial killing couples and suicides, we watch as the people of this little town try to navigate the misery of life. The film centers around the concept of the evils of religion — or to be more precise, the people using their relationship with religion to try to excuse their sins. 

We follow multiple characters through the movie that all eventually cross and weave together until everyone is dead. First, we start with William Russell played by Bill Skarsgård, who is returning home from World War II with violence and cruelty in his wake. We watch as he makes a family for himself, and tries to use religion to make sense of the gruesome events he undertook in the war. Russell does well for a while ― until his wife dies of cancer. After trying to sacrifice the family dog to save his wife, he then commits suicide, thus leaving his young son Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta and Tom Holland) an orphan. Arvin goes to live with his grandmother where he then meets Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), who is living with them after her preacher father killed her mother, thinking he could resurrect her with the power of God.

This leads us into the introduction of the serial killing duo, Sandy and Carl (Riley Keough and Jason Clarke.) The monstrous couple spend their time photographing and killing men by a lake as well as their first victim, who just happens to be Lenora’s grieving father. Alongside the killer duo is Sandy’s brother, Deputy Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan), who seems to spend most of his time making deals with local gangs and cleaning up Sandy’s messes. The last main character introduced is the flamboyant and hypocritical Reverend Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson). After about an hour of watching miserable people face their faith and their realities, Teagardin comes in, preaching of delusions and sinners. Yet he is the last straw before destruction hits the people of this small town. 

“The Devil All the Time” is a whirlwind of fear, misery and death that leaves you wanting more, and also leaves you questioning why you wasted the time to watch it. The plot was thick and full of madness ― with such a wide topic and large cast of characters, it leaves audiences feeling as though they never get to know any of them well because of the complicated storyline. As much as I love movies that make me think more critically, this movie contains so much misery that no light can be let through. The movie is so jam-packed that it does not give the viewer time to focus on the smaller details, thus leaving you overwhelmed ― but also feeling like there wasn’t enough substance. 

Overall, I really wanted to like this movie, but the good just did not outweigh the bad enough. If you’re really bored one weekend, give it a shot, but there are definitely a lot of better movies emerging in theaters and on streaming platforms that I would recommend before this one. 

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