Review: The Devil All the Time
Are you ready for a story?
The star power of this Netflix oddity has gained a lot of attention. Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson have been thrust front and centre, though you would not class either as a lead. Not that there's a lead character in this ensemble piece.
By the line-up, you'd swear this was the hottest ticket in town, even if each actor's screen time is scant.
The title and cast have been enough to make it No. 1 on Netflix in Singapore, though it's hard to imagine that it is what curious viewers were expecting.
Fans of Spider-Man, Batman, Twilight and the Winter Soldier might be disappointed, if not traumatised, by what they see.
The Devil All The Time plays out like a psychotic version of A Prairie Home Companion.
A tour of a backwater town that seems quaint until it leads you to the woods.
It's a backwoods noir where everyone seems steeped in sin.
The narrator's folksy whiskey-drawl (supplied by the author of the source novel, Donald Ray Pollock) informs you about the characters – offering nice, homely details before suddenly dropping some calmly delivered horror related to their life.
This is a meander through a few lives over the course of 20-something years. A shaggy dog story –if the dog's coat is matted with blood – which may work in prose but is an opinion-divider on screen.
One challenge with a film like this is that it needs a lot of accent work, and while a number of the cast (littered with Brits and Australians) give it the old Forrest Gump, top of the class is Pattinson, whose slimy preacher emits an authentic reedy mewl.
(Also, both preachers here are Harry Potter alum, as Harry Melling – formerly Dudley Dursley – plays a manic preacher with a spider gimmick).
It's truly gruesome in parts, with a strong tinge of religious fervour.
In fact, it's so grim that a hug – the lone expression of kindly love in the entire film – stands out like an alien gesture.
Without a definite protagonist/plot set-up, the viewer gets to dip in and out of the characters' lives, looking over their shoulder to see what's up and become very disturbed at what they see.
It's an ambitious, strange project that takes some big chances while knowing it will probably leave plenty wondering what they've just seen.
FILM: The Devil All The Time
STARRING: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Harry Melling
DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos
THE SKINNY: A young man (Holland) is devoted to protecting his loved ones in a small backwoods town full of corruption and sinister characters in post-WWII America.