The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★★

"Blessed…are they who hunger and thirst…for righteousness."

As I try my best to do with anything I’m excited for, I avoided the trailers for Netflix’s latest star-studded film. An entire bevy of notable names is present in what is arguably one of the years most stacked casts—takes a deep breath—starring: Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, and Harry Melling. Despite boasting a 138-minute runtime, I think Campos’s senior feature effort and its complex slew of characters would have largely benefited from an HBO miniseries model. Within the first 45-minutes alone—the first act—I noticed a handful of differences and omitted character development sections lost in adaptation. Without entering any spoiler territory, I’ll leave it at the shift from a more sporadic episodic nature filled with plenty of time for individual marination into an expected streamlined linear narrative for the sake of non-readers. In presenting this very religiously soaked road trip through Red Appalachia in a straightforward nature, I do strongly believe that it loses a lot of the dynamism. A large portion of my enjoyment when reading the novel came from trying to piece how all these twisted individuals’ tormented stories were going to coalesce. The plot still works, and author Donald Ray Pollock’s narration ensures you do not get lost, but as a reader it surely left me with some unfulfilled desires.

While I’ve only seen one of Campos’s films, Christine, it’s abundantly clear that he is an actor’s director. It truly feels like he offers his actors plenty of room to breathe and work with the inner machinations of their respective characters; like Rebecca Hall‘s awards-worthy tour de force performance in Christine, it’s the wide array of personalities that carry The Devil All the Time. Whether it be Pattinson’s treacherously manipulative paedophile preacher, Clarke & Keough’s sex and death fetish Natural Born Killers, Stan’s oaffish corrupt small-town sheriff, Skarsgård’s war-tormented ritual sacrificing veteran, or Holland admirably yet unconvincingly trying his best to break from the goody two shoes high school Webhead, half of the cast is given at least a moment to chew it up. Unfortunately, I literally mean “a moment,” as I’d argue each of them may amass to half of the development and despicable nature that the novel fleshes them out to be. The other half of the cast is sadly relegated to very minimal roles I can see viewers complaining about, particularly the female characters. I was very sad not to have gotten all the torturous sexcapades between Carl & Sandy. The only one really worth mentioning is the seemingly effortless Pattinson, who just like in his previous Netflix collaboration, The King, takes his sweet time engaging, tasting, and sweating (and finger-licking) with the set. The hallmark saying that the book is always better than the movie certainly rings true here, most particularly in how much darker, perverted, and filled with thoughtful prose the literature is. 

PS: If you really think this film is heavy in harrowing bleakness...you should see how much better the book is. 

READ MY FULL CINEMA ETC. REVIEW HERE

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