The Devil All the Time not for the faint of heart

Tom Holland starts in Netflix’s The Devil All the Time as Arvin Eugene Russell.

It’s been a very, very long time since I went into a movie completely and utterly blind. 

These days, it is nigh impossible to not know at least a smidgen beforehand about the latest cinematic tale one sits down to experience between the trailers, TV spots, and audience reactions that bombard us every time we turn on anything even vaguely electronic. 

Some of this foreknowledge can be necessary, however; if you hate mid-thirtieth century romances about robot cowboys from Mars, wouldn’t you want to know if the movie you are about to watch is a mid-thirtieth century romance about robot cowboys from Mars? 

When it comes to reviews, however, I am a little less picky, as I try to watch things I would not normally watch for the sake of variety. That all being said, I wish I didn’t go into The Devil All the Time as blind as I did, because I probably wouldn’t have gone into it at all. It is not a mid-thirtieth century romance about robot cowboys from Mars, because that would be at least a little bit enjoyable. 

Overall, The Devil All the Time is a very well made movie that seemed to delight in making me hate it.

Ably acted by an all-star cast that includes such names as Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard, and Sebastian Stan, The Devil All the Time is, in short, excessive. 

There is not a single light moment in the entire run time, nor is there a single morally decent character (unless you count the two that quickly get brutally offed for the crime of being morally decent). 

The closest we get to a hero is a deeply troubled and violent high school student, and he still kills people. Meanwhile, the theme of religious extremism and how it can lead people to commit atrocities is not so much delicately explored as it is used as a cudgel on the unsuspecting skull of the viewer. 

I don’t dislike dark movies. I like them just as much as lighthearted movies when I am in the right mood. But stringing together a few different stories of bad people doing bad things just to invoke negative feelings in the audience is different. 

Exploring negative themes is fine, but when a film does nothing to prove or hint that things can get better, there is a problem. There is little to no hope to be found in this movie, and religion apparently either turns you into complete psychopath or a naïve child with nothing in between. 

As I write this, I realize that the problems I have with The Devil All the Time arise from the duties I think all films need to perform: they must entertain, or they must teach. The greatest ones do both, and the worst ones do neither. I was not entertained by this film even though it was technically a fine film, nor did it teach me anything. What it did was remind me that despicable people are out there and there is little we can do about it. Yaaay. 

Am I letting my emotions rule this particular review and my reaction to this movie? Absolutely. I understand that you should usually hate the message (people suck) and not the messenger (the movie). But I am only a man. You might very well love The Devil All the Time. I did not. 

The Devil All the Time is now available on Netflix.