By Kaleb Vining
Antonio Campos’ adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s “The Devil All the Time” is a star-studded thriller that tells a story of multiple generations plagued by violence and death.
The film starts with a flashback in Japan during World War II. Bill Skarsgard plays Willard Russell, a WWII veteran.
Russell comes across a fellow soldier who is crucified to a cross and has yet to die. Russell is forced to shoot the man out of mercy and this violence sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Soon after the war Russell is shipped home to Coal Creek, West Virginia. He soon meets his wife Charlotte, played by Haley Bennett, and they have a son whom they name Arvin, played by Tom Holland. Russell teaches Arvin to fight violence with violence and to stay strong with God.
Arvin soon becomes the film’s protagonist as he is left an orphan and must go to live with his grandmother.
Around the same time Arvin moves in with his grandmother, Lenora Laferty, played by Eliza Scanlen, and is left orphaned as well.
Meanwhile in West Virginia the film introduces a serial killing couple, Carl and Sandy Henderson, played by Jason Clarke and Riley Keough.
They roam the states of Ohio and West Virginia picking up young hitchhikers, killing them, and posing with them for pictures.
These stories all converge on Arvin’s life in some dark ways. Robert Pattinson enters the picture as the Reverend Teagardin. While he is a man of the cloth, Teagardin dilutes his faith with some truly unholy actions.
These actions cause Arvin and Teagardin to cross paths and it is not good for either one of them.
As the film draws towards its close, Arvin is picked up by the Hendersons and enters a fight for his life. Just when it seems to be over, Sandy’s brother, Sheriff Lee Bodecker, played by Sebastian Stan, goes looking for Arvin to coverup his own corrupt actions. The two enter a fatal showdown and end the film in a truly memorable way.
“The Devil All the Time” leads its audiences on a hunt for faith in a film full of sin. Shot on 35-mm film, this movie truly added a vintage aspect back to the process of filmmaking.
The film uses the storylines of each character to explore themes of good versus evil, and how faith can often be confused with the sinister.
Right from the start, Russell associates evil with faith when he finds the soldier pinned to the cross.
Arvin soon finds the devil in faith too as his father makes a sacrifice to God and decidedly puts it on the cross. Arvin also finds evil in the church.
Teagardin is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who brings a new meaning to the word evil with his unholy actions with his young disciples.
This film leaves its audience wondering who they can trust in their own lives by exploring these themes. This film truly film truly shows how people fight the devil all the time throughout life.
Evil lurks everywhere in this film and it is easy to spot. The crucifixion, murder, crimes of a Reverend and crooked lawman do not do the film enough justice on how well it explores evil.
What starts as a simple postwar story suddenly turns to much more when you dive deeper into it and realize that the undercurrents of sin, faith, family, lust and good versus evil represent the deeper problems within a society.
As the film’s title implies, society will be tempted by the devil all the time. However, society can fight the devil with faith. Just like Russell says in the movie, “the Lord can do anything, if you just ask him right.”