No one is innocent in ‘The Devil All The Time’

The Devil All The Time, now available on Netflix, is based on the 2011 novel written by Donald Ray Pollock.


“The Devil All The Time,” now available on Netflix, is based on the 2011 novel written by Donald Ray Pollock.

“The Devil All The Time,” now available on Netflix, is a grim and violent tale that is the result of the sinister characters’ acts and the secrets they possess. The film is based on the 2011 novel written by Donald Ray Pollock. 

The film takes place mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, in a small town in Ohio where Christianity has a strong grip on the townspeople. “The Devil All The Time” exposes the evil in each of its characters, especially those in authoritative positions.

We are first introduced to a man named Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård). Willard’s character is strongly influenced by the trauma he faced while serving in World War II. This trauma leads him to a disturbing set of religious beliefs, which includes the blood sacrifice of the family dog. 

One of the main themes in “The Devil All The Time” is how past trauma and grief has been handed down from generation to generation. 

After the tragic death of his father,  Arvin (Tom Holland) goes to live with his grandmother and stepsister,  Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). Years pass and both Arvin and Lenora are teenagers. Lenora is constantly harassed by a group of boys at school until Arvin has his way and violently beats up the trio. 

Throughout the film, Arvin’s intentions are always good, but he is relentless in not letting evil deeds go without punishment. This plays a pivotal role in the film’s overall rating. Tom Holland did an excellent job at playing a character as complex as Arvin. His acting pulls you in and keeps you entertained through the entirety of the film.

The viewers have no choice but to notice that the most heinous acts are committed by those with religious power.  

Harry Melling plays a slimy preacher that is so devoted to his beliefs he goes as far as trying to prove that he has the ability to bring the dead back to life — even if it means he has to kill to prove it. Years later another preacher makes his way into the town, this time played by Robert Pattinson.

Other corrupt characters include a local sheriff  (Sebastion Stan) and a murderous couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) who pick up local hitchhikers to quench their thirst for blood shed. 

It’sno surprise that a film of this nature was directed by Campos, who was also a part of other psychological thrillers like “Afterschool” (2008) and “Christine” (2016). The film is centered around religion and those who use it to satisfy dark desires. Campos’ interpretation and skepticism of organized religion is felt throughout the entire film. 

In the film, everyone is a sinner. Even those whose actions seem to be justified. Religion is the only thing that connects and controls everyone, even those as seemingly innocent as Lenora who is tricked into an inappropriate relationship with a preacher and Arvin who is just trying to seek revenge from those who have done wrong by him and his family. 

Although the film was a bit repetitive in its grisly manor, it was fascinating to witness the cast play such wicked roles. Campos shot the film through a 35mm lens that gives gives a beautiful and intimate picture of a horrifying town plagued with murder. I would recommend this film if you are a fan of Campos’ previous films or if you are a psychological thriller junkie. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Sophia Pearson can be reached at [email protected] or @sophia__pearson on Twitter.