Review: Netflix’s ‘The Devil All the Time‘ is the most miserable film of 2020

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The Devil All The Time
Evil people doing evil things is the theme in Netflix's "The Devil All the Time"

Never has a movie been so aptly named than Antonio Campos’ The Devil All the Time. This is a violent film, with not much to say other than the fact that human-beings suck. There are a myriad of lies, dark secrets, and a body count that would satisfy a porn star.

The Plot

The story takes place in a 1950’s small town called Knockemstiff, Ohio, where seemingly every resident happens to either be a killer, sexual deviant, or someone who’s just in a bad mood. We’re first introduced to Willard (Bill Skarsgard), who just came back from WWII and is experiencing severe PTSD. He has a wife (Haley Bennett) and a son, and we see how his PTSD affects his relationships with both.

Willard’s influence on his son Arvin (Tom Holland) makes up the films main storyline, although there are many others intertwined. We have a sleazy preacher (Harry Melling) who does an unforgivable thing to his wife (Mia Wasakowska) and daughter (Eliza Scanlen). There’s a corrupt cop (Sebastian Stan) and his serial killer sister (Riley Keough), who’s married to another serial killer named Carl (Jason Clarke). There’s also another sleazy preacher (Robert Pattinson) who appears later on. Try to keep up.

If it seems like there’s a lot going on in this movie, its because there is. There’s a nauseating amount of story here, but at its core, it’s a film about the sins of our father, and the burden we carry along the way.

The Devil All The Time
Tom Holland plays Arvin Russell in Netflix’s violent drama “The Devil All The Time”

It’s easy to see why Netflix paid to acquire the rights. The cast features plenty of familiar faces. Bill Skarsgard (“IT”) steals the show in particular. He carries the first half-hour of this film, and I found myself caring about his character the most.

Tom Holland does a good job with a role that’s out of his comfort zone. Riley Keough and Jason Clarke do an awesome job as a serial-killing couple. Harry Melling is as unlikable as always, and Robert Pattinson has a southern-ish(?) accent that’s borders on ridiculous, but oddly works for a movie that’s badly in need of some levity.

Director Antonio Campos (“Christine”, “Simon Killer”) delivers a technically sound film. The imagery is captivating, the sound design is crisp, and the score matches the tone.

If only the story wasn’t so depressing.

The Verdict

Narrated by the author of the book of which the film is based, The Devil All the Time has the style, but lacks the substance. It’s dark and intense, but too joyless and miserable to be enjoyed. Maybe that’s the point.

5.6 out of 10

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