In the Devil All the Time, the story is located mainly in the seemingly-normal town of Knockemstiff, Ohio. We hardly get through the opening scene before it is clear that something dark has been in the town long before Arvin, our main character played by Tom Holland, was born. In WWII, Arvin’s father Willard, played by Bill Skarsgård, witnesses gruesome death and loses his faith in God. He marries a waitress named Charlotte soon after arriving home and optimistically moves to Knockemstiff to start a fresh life with their son. This turns out to be a mistake after a series of traumatic events involving suicide, serial killers, and insanity. Deciding that he is done with letting this go on, Arvin starts off on a mission to rid the town of the evil lurking within.
The epicenter of nearly every happening in The Devil All the Time is the church. Knockemstiff and the surrounding area is a hugely religious place where people view the preachers as a direct connection to God. While this begins as well-intentioned, it soon spirals into multiple dangerous events. The fact that the exact thing that was supposed to save these people was what destroyed them in the end is what made the movie so interesting. The slow buildup and shocking turn of events propelled the plot and always left me on the edge of my seat.
The cast is the cherry on top of the unpredictable plot. Hailing from all different countries including Australia, England, and Sweden, every cast member has perfected their rural southern accent so much that you’d never guess they weren’t born and raised in Knockemstiff themselves. Tom Holland has made a complete 180 from his usual role of Spiderman. He portrays Arvin in an innocent manner that matures and hardens as time goes on.
The most surprising character had to be Robert Pattinson as Reverend Preston Teagarden, a far cry from his Twilight days. Pattinson’s high-pitched yet commanding southern accent and deceitful charm immediately drew me in. Bill Skarsgård’s role of Willard had the most compelling evolution. He toggled between his hatred and faith in God depending on what the situation was and what exactly he was looking to gain. It is fascinating to watch the characters progress after every event, big or small, but I did feel that there were still some areas of development that were forgotten about or just abruptly ended.
The Devil All the Time is an intriguing psychological thriller that is perfect for the scariest time of the year. The only criticism I would have for it is that it was slow-moving. I believe this was purposeful since a movie with all action would ruin the excitement, but there were some points that dragged on longer than I was willing to pay attention. There should be enough of a pause to make the viewer wonder what is going to happen next, but still a quick enough speed that they are not bored. Another issue I have with the film is its dependence on violence. Almost every scene had a new form of blood and gore, which occasionally masked the characters’ prospects of change. Though there were a couple of areas where it fell short, I would definitely recommend The Devil All the Time if you like movies that are dark and suspenseful, but are tired of the average horror movie and are looking for a change of pace.