The Devil All the Time | A Circle of Bad Things

The novel this movie is based on is not one that I would have picked up. One of the reasons I ended up watching the film is the producer Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Brokeback Mountain), and the cast which includes Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound), Bill Skarsgard (It, Deadpool 2, Allegiant), Harry Melling (The Old Guard), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya, The Winter Soldier), Robert Pattinson (Tenet, Cosmopolis), and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). My description of the cast make the movie soundsm like a sausage fest but it’s not. There are female characters, portrayed by some well known-ish actresses Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road), Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, Marley & Me), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects); but it’s really the boys’ story.

Donald Ray Pollock‘s book The Devil All The Time is adapted by Paulo Campos and director Antonio Campos (The Sinner).

Premise: Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and sinister characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific. There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard’s son, who grows up to be a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.

Review: The story is bonkers and a little over the top, it sounds surreal but at the same time it rings true. It’s dark and f’ed but is oddly captivating, with a sublime narration that adds to the atmosphere. The neatly woven narrative unfolds slowly and violently, with relatable moments.

The cast is talented, there’s no doubt about it, but the actors themselves seem off. Not enough to put you off of this movie, however just enough to keep from totally getting lost in the story, to keep some disbelief. Because this film is a collection of bad things happening to people living in the rural American South, where religion and family have a major impact them.

The production value is very strong. The directing and the acting – narration included – does a great job with the atmosphere and context of the story. The story takes its time but it flies by. The Devil all the Time is a somewhat surreal, bleak crime thriller that could a true story.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
Get the book here

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