The Devil All The Time: a masterful blend of storytelling, suspense and violence

Jack Rogula, staff writer

Antonio Campos’s new film, The Devil All The Time, one of the most suspenseful psychological horror films of 2020, is another great edition to Netflix’s vast library of movies. Adapting Dale Pollock’s novel of the same title, Campos blends together moments of sheer intensity, an outstanding soundtrack and an excellent use of violence to make a masterpiece of a film. 

Taking place over almost three decades, the film—featuring prestigious actors such as Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard and Sebastian Stan—connects the lives of every character in the small towns of Mead and Knockemstiff, West Virginia. The movie begins in the ‘40s, at the end of World War II in the Pacific Ocean theater and continues its story into the ‘60s, during the Vietnam War. 

The story follows Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard), a WWII veteran returning home, as he grapples with his family and his loss of passion for religion. We then see the life of Willard’s son, Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), in the ‘60s, as he becomes a sort of vigilante for his family and his town, knocking heads with a sinful reverend, a murderous photographer and a corrupt sheriff. Each of the characters’ stories ramp up and intertwine with each other, setting the stage for an explosive climax. Coming in at a runtime of two hours and 18 minutes, the film holds outstanding sequences of action, multiple thrilling moments and beautiful shots.

Campos does a phenomenal job creating an atmosphere of dread in a small, isolated town in the South, surrounded by farmland, woods and open fields. Through this dread comes a feeling of helplessness, which Campos uses perfectly for a psychological thriller such as this, and Campos is able to frame isolation in a believable and horrifying way. The woods that surround the characters, almost trapping them, to enhances this feeling of isolation and helplessness.

 Another way Campos uses the setting and time periods to set the mood s-is through the soundtrack. – Using classics from the ‘40s to the ‘60s such as Dream by the Pied Pipers and other great songs builds a great atmosphere. But, the highlight of the film is Campos’s use of suspense. Get used to being on the edge of your seat as this film has some of the best sequences of suspense in film, and uses each scene to make the audience gasp. 

The Devil All The Time comments heavily on the influence religion can have on people’s lives and how obsession with religion can tear people apart. The religious figures we see in the film, such as Willard and Reverend Preston, are both pure men transformed into cruel and abusive characters through an obsession with salvation and divine power. Both Willard and the Reverend affect the characters through this obsession, and are both sparks lighting the fuse to set off the violence and corruption that takes place in Knockemstiff, setting the plot in motion.

Overall, fans of slow burns or psychological horrors, or anyone willing to set aside two hours for a cinematic trip, will find themselves immersed in the grim world of The Devil All The Time. With a riveting and tense plot, matched with a soundtrack to amplify the mood, it is one of the must-sees of the year so far.