HomeArts & EntertainmentReview: ‘The Devil All the Time’ propels Southern Gothic genre

Review: ‘The Devil All the Time’ propels Southern Gothic genre

By Chris Crymes 

Staff Writer

It’s easy to get lost in the flood of streaming movie releases, especially now that most media has shifted online. Netflix is one of the main proponents of this media shift, throwing out surprisingly quality releases seemingly at random. The latest release, “The Devil All the Time,” being ushered out in the middle of the week is no different. With only one trailer back in August and no other advertisements, it’s as if Netflix is attempting to cultivate a hidden gem with this film. Despite a lengthy runtime, “The Devil All the Time” is a tragically grounded, fully realized Southern Gothic tale.  

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia describes Southern Gothic literature as including, “the  presence of irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque  characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation.” While Edgar Allan  Poe and William Faulkner are considered the fathers of the genre, even playwrights like  Tennessee Williams drew on Southern Gothic themes in their works, and “The Devil All the  Time” seeks to bring those elements fully into 2020. 

With a solemn, all-knowing narrator and a revolving cast of interweaving plots and characters, the film calls back to Faulkner’s work “The Sound and the Fury” and takes a toll on the viewer. Over the two hours and 18 minutes of the film, writer/director Antonio Campos’  all-encompassing but focused tale takes his audience on a true journey in two small towns in  West Virginia and Ohio, while cutting between several time periods to show the consequences of decisions characters make.  

Those characters are masterfully helmed by a talent-studded cast. Highlights among them include Tom Holland, usually known as this generation’s Spider-Man, as the latter half of the film’s central character. Robert Pattinson continues his prolific run of modern performances as a  snake of a false preacher. The rest of the cast is not filled with slouches, though. Sebastian Stan,  Bill Skarsgard, Haley Bennett and Riley Keough all bring a dirty realness to their characters so everyone on screen rings true.  

There are some things one can’t look away from in the film. Among them being the scope  and runtime. With such a wide breadth, the story can at times feel as though it’s just trying to  cover too much.  

One plot thread surrounding the background villains of the film comes and goes as it pleases,  sometimes catching the viewer off guard. Not to say it is poorly paced, but every now and then  Campos decides to return to an earlier or different thread in the heat of the action. This could  be frustrating for a viewer seeking a more straightforward watch. 

Another potential downside is the depiction of violence in the film. While most of the violent acts in the film are framed and shot as unsettling, a couple of instances could be misconstrued as  glorification of violence. I believe this is something for a viewer to decide on their own, but it is something to be aware of while watching.  

Even with these negatives, “The Devil All the Time” offers powerful performances, beautiful cinematography and a rock-solid script told by a director whose talents look to increase with each passing project. This film is not for the faint of heart, but worth the watch for fans of the dark and heavy.

It’s easy to get lost in the flood of streaming movie releases, especially now that most media has shifted online. Netflix is one of the main proponents of this media shift, throwing out surprisingly quality releases seemingly at random. The latest release, “The Devil All the Time,” being ushered out in the middle of the week is no different. With only one trailer back in August and no other advertisements, it’s as if Netflix is attempting to cultivate a hidden gem with this film. Despite a lengthy runtime, “The Devil All the Time” is a tragically grounded, fully realized Southern Gothic tale.  

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia describes Southern Gothic literature as including, “the  presence of irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque  characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation.” While Edgar Allan  Poe and William Faulkner are considered the fathers of the genre, even playwrights like  Tennessee Williams drew on Southern Gothic themes in their works, and “The Devil All the  Time” seeks to bring those elements fully into 2020. 

With a solemn, all-knowing narrator and a revolving cast of interweaving plots and  characters, the film calls back to Faulkner’s work “The Sound and the Fury” and takes a toll on  the viewer. Over the two hours and 18 minutes of the film, writer/director Antonio Campos’  all-encompassing but focused tale takes his audience on a true journey in two small towns in  West Virginia and Ohio, while cutting between several time periods to show the consequences  of decisions characters make.  

Those characters are masterfully helmed by a talent-studded cast. Highlights among them  include Tom Holland, usually known as this generation’s Spider-Man, as the latter half of the  film’s central character. Robert Pattinson continues his prolific run of modern performances as a  snake of a false preacher. The rest of the cast is not filled with slouches, though. Sebastian Stan,  Bill Skarsgard, Haley Bennett and Riley Keough all bring a dirty realness to their characters so  everyone on screen rings true.  

There are some things one can’t look away from in the film. Among them being the scope  and runtime. With such a wide breadth, the story can at times feel as though it’s just trying to  cover too much.  

One plot thread surrounding the background villains of the film comes and goes as it pleases,  sometimes catching the viewer off guard. Not to say it is poorly paced, but every now and then  Campos decides to return to an earlier or different thread in the heat of the action. This could  be frustrating for a viewer seeking a more straightforward watch. 

Another potential downside is the depiction of violence in the film. While most of the violent  acts in the film are framed and shot as unsettling, a couple of instances could be misconstrued as  glorification of violence. I believe this is something for a viewer to decide on their own, but it is  something to be aware of while watching.  

Even with these negatives, “The Devil All the Time” offers powerful performances, beautiful  cinematography and a rock-solid script told by a director whose talents look to increase with  each passing project. This film is not for the faint of heart, but worth the watch for fans of the  dark and heavy.

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  • I actually saw this movie the day it came out as it was featured on the Netflix page. I was intrigued to see what character Tom Holland would play, and I was surprised to see Robert Pattinson performing in a southern accent. I wouldn’t particularly describe it as a horror film although at times it was gruesome, the violence all had a meaning. I agree it was confusing through the continual change in time periods as well as story lines. I really enjoyed how each of the characters’ stories tied together. It was somehow predictable, yet it really got me thinking about how each decision you make affects not only you but the people around you.

  • I personally watched this movie due to the fact that my girlfriend told me to. Overall this movie is good and has very good acting. This movie takes place back after WW2. There is a lot going on and will make you want to pay attention every single second.

  • I haven’t seen this movie on Netflix yet but by the very talented cast that is in this movie, I might give it a watch. The mention of the jump cuts in the movie potentially catching viewers off guard is probably apart of the appeal, Campos wants to keep the watcher engaged and paying attention. I would rather watch a movie I had to focus on in order to understand rather than getting bored with it the first 30 minutes into watching.

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