The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time is a 2020 American psychological thriller Netflix film based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. The film features blockbuster stars, including Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Eliza Scanlen and Robert Pattinson.

Note: This review contains spoilers. 

I was so excited to watch "The Devil All the Time." Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgärd, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen, how could you possibly go wrong with a cast like this? The fact of the matter is that you absolutely can go wrong, it just won't be at the fault of the actors. 

The first problem is that the movie is billed on Netflix as a "psychological thriller." By definition, that means it is supposed to explore the psychological stress of either its characters or its audience, usually in a "thrilling" manner. 

We are set up for success on this front, as we are barraged with disturbing images like crucifixions and sacrificed household pets from the very beginning. Still, the plot's predictability doesn't allow the "thrill" to go very far beyond that.

Every plot point was utterly unsurprising to any audience that has seen a movie in the past two decades. The new preacher sexually assaults the pious teenage girl; the corrupt cop covers up the wrongdoings of his serial killer sister; the born-again religious fanatic kills his wife because he thinks he can revive her; the one character that we're rooting for is the only one that survives. 

I am left questioning the intent of the creative team. The movie felt like it was meant to be a commentary on morality versus humanity, the ties between religion and evil, or maybe religious and political corruption in rural America. It did play with all of these themes. The problem is that I didn't come out learning or feeling anything new. Honestly, neither did any of the characters - what kind of stand-alone movie is entirely absent of character growth?

Lots of people are bad. Religion can make people do crazy things. There is a lot of gray area in the question of true morality. Has this not all been explored before? Even so, if you are going to riff off of classic themes such as these, at least give us a plot twist worth gasping.

The only thing that kept me hanging on until the end of the 138-minute-long movie was the incredible performances given by the entirety of the all-star cast. I was most impressed by the accent work of Pattinson and Holland, two English actors who capture with ease the casual lull of rural Ohio, making me forget their country of origin entirely. Skarsgärd also gave a standout performance, as we watch him struggle with PTSD while crumbling into desperation for heavenly intervention as his young wife dies of cancer. 

When all is said and done, "The Devil All the Time" felt like a waste of time and talent. With a more creative plot or more profound lessons or commentaries, the movie would have been successful. However, it fell short by playing off of archetypal characters and themes with no innovation. Oh, and it absolutely did not pass the Bechdel test. 

So, if you want to see a bunch of white men do bad things to good people with absolutely no character growth, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, catch these actors in "The Avengers," "Twilight," "It" or literally any other movie they've ever been in, and I promise you will enjoy yourself more.