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Movie Review: “The Devil All the Time”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Devil All the Time

Netflix Release: 9/16/2020

Netflix Release: 9/16/2020

Synopsis

Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard) has come back home from the war, but the horrors he witnessed there have come back with him. Still haunted by what he saw, Willard suffers a tragic loss. That loss causes the darkness within him to come out, and it has a lasting effect on his son. Years later, Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) has grown up, but the impact his father had on him as a boy still lingers with him.

Arvin had a troubled childhood, but he now looks after his adopted sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) like any big brother should. He protects her from bullies when he can, and escorts her to the local church cemetery to visit her mother every week. However, a sinister preacher (Robert Pattinson) has his sights set on Lenora. To make matters worse, Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy Henderson (Riley Keough) have a twisted, dangerous fetish, and they patrol the local streets looking for potential victims.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Story (+8pts)

Tying it All Together (-3pts)

The Cast (+8pts)

Too Long (-3pts)

The Violence (+6pts)

Impact (-3pts)

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Pro: The Story (+8pts)

This was one of those movies that spanned a long period of time, but I liked how the filmmakers handled it. It followed multiple characters over the span of a couple decades. Normally in stories like this one, filmmakers will start somewhere in the middle, then jump back and forth between flashbacks in an attempt to tell the stories of two timelines simultaneously. Constant flashbacks can be frustrating and it is one of my pet peeves when watching movies, but the filmmakers of this movie did not do that. They told the story chronologically, and I appreciated that decision. Then there was the story itself, which was filled with drama, tragedy, mystery, and suspense. Most of the characters in this movie had dark, tragic stories that made this a gripping, compelling movie to watch.

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Con: Tying it All Together (-3pts)

There were several different storylines in this movie, and while some were definitely connected to one another—Willard's story tied directly into Arvin's story—some other storylines felt pretty disconnected. The ones that come to mind were Carl and Sandy Henderson's story, and the storyline for Deputy Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan). These stories were both sort of happening in parallel with the main story, and they had almost nothing to do with that main story. The deputy's story connected with the main story in the beginning and end of the movie, and the Hendersons' story connected with the main story in the end as well, but for the most part, both storylines felt completely separate from everything else that was happening. Were they interesting? Sure, but I thought the filmmakers could have done a better job of tying them together throughout the movie, rather than having these storylines only feel relevant at the end.

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Pro: The Cast (+8pts)

This was a surprisingly stacked cast for a Netflix movie. There were Bill Skarsgard, Haley Bennett, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, and even Harry Melling (Dudley from the Harry Potter franchise). Each of these actors brought their talents to this movie, and it made for a truly compelling group of characters. Additionally, Riley Keough as Sandy Henderson, Eliza Scanlen as Lenora Laferty, and Mia Wasikowska as Helen Hatton all stood out as compelling performances—I just did not recognize these actresses from other movies. It was an all around talented cast, and even then, there were some surprisingly great performances—the notable ones being from Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson.

Tom Holland played Arvin Russell, a young man struggling with the darkness that his father passed down to him. He had a strong set of morals, and he was not afraid of a fight, a combination of traits that frequently got him into trouble. Then there was Robert Pattinson as the preacher, who had a sadistic side that spelled bad news for young girls unfortunate enough to find themselves in his path. Both of these characters were different roles for their respective actors, and I enjoyed watching both Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson sinking their teeth into the characters. I could go on all day about all of the other actors and actresses in this movie, and how well each of them did with their respective roles. Just know that this was a movie filled with talented actors and actresses playing compelling characters, and it made this long movie a joy to watch.

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Con: Too Long (-3pts)

This movie was a little under two and a half hours, and I thought it could have been trimmed down by a decent amount. It was an interesting character story about multiple different characters, so the filmmakers needed time to flesh each of them out properly. That being said, there were still a few sections when not a lot was happening, and these sections ended up feeling a somewhat boring. Fortunately, the movie was always able to win me back, but these sections made it evident that the movie could have been trimmed down. There was no one storyline that I would have taken out entirely, but each storyline had some scenes that were drawn out more than they needed to be, and trimming these down could have made the movie about 20 to 30 minutes shorter.

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Pro: The Violence (+6pts)

People died in this movie. Characters died tragically, and more often than not, they died violently. That being said, this was not violence for the sake of violence. This movie was all about the tragic stories of the characters in it, and death was the driving force behind all of that tragedy. Characters watched people they loved die in horrible ways, and this was what fed the more dramatic scenes of the movie.

Each death had impact with the audience, which helped us connect with the characters who were still living and were affected by the deaths. The violence was meant to serve a purpose, and I thought the filmmakers achieved that purpose effectively. There were shootouts, there was suicide, and there were serial killers on the prowl. There was plenty of death in this movie, and made the movie both thrilling and captivating—pretty much from start to finish.

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Con: Impact (-3pts)

I liked this movie, and I liked all of the character stories, but I thought the end of the movie was missing the impact that I thought it should have had. Everything leading up to the movie's climax built tension, and it built drama. It all felt like it was leading toward something big, but then the climax (climaxes) came, it did not feel like the big finish that the rest of the movie felt like it was building toward. Keep in mind, when I say "big finish", I do not mean the movie needed some generic, blockbuster-style climax. What I mean is that I thought these characters were going to come together in some climactic way, but it did not feel like they did.

The writers sort of split one climax into two. There were basically three storylines happening in parallel. Rather than have all three converge together at the same time, the writers had two converge together, then had the resulting storyline converge with the third storyline at a later time. Unfortunately, I thought this strategy took a lot of the steam out of all three storylines, and made the second climax feel less impactful than I was hoping it would be.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (88pts)

The Devil All the Time was one of those movies that I had not heard of until it was suddenly available to watch on Netflix. The cast immediately peaked my interest, and the trailer got me even more interested than I already was. The cast was filled with great actors playing interesting characters in compelling ways, and the stories for each character were tragic, dramatic, and captivating. The movie was all about how contagious death and violence can be. It radiated from a couple of characters and impacted many others.

This made for tragic stories that I really enjoyed watching play out, and it gave the actors in each role a lot to sink their teeth into. A couple of this movie's weaknesses were that I thought it was about 20 or 30 minutes longer than it needed to be, and I thought the ending of the movie lacked the impact that the rest of the movie felt like it was building toward. That being said, these were not major issues. I thought the movie could have been refined and improved in a couple of areas, but this was a suspenseful, gripping movie that I really enjoyed watching.