Despite its eventful premise and being almost three minutes long, the trailer for The Devil All the Time doesn’t give much away.
Between flashbacks, we can see there’s a lot of players in this upcoming film, a lot of blood, and a lot of church, and even if you aren’t familiar with the top-tier horror novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, you’re already intrigued from the start.
So let’s break it down into what the story is actually about.
The Devil All the Time takes place in a small town in Ohio across two generations. The story begins following WWII, a young soldier named Willard returns from his service and is instantly love-struck by a waitress named Charlotte, much to the disappointment of his mother, Emma, who promised God her good-looking son would be married to the poor homely Helen Hatton if God let him live. Willard marries Charlotte anyways and they have a son, Arvin, our soon to be the main character. Yet, even true love doesn’t make anyone immune to tragedy.
As Arvin grows, Willard, who has some severely diagnosed PTSD from the war, brings him into his bizarre daily prayer ritual that includes spilling animal blood on the sacred “prayer log.” When Charlotte is diagnosed with cancer he forces them to pray extra hard, but when that doesn’t work and Charlotte dies, Willard immediately commits suicide leaving Arvin to live with his grandmother, Emma, and the orphan of Helen Hatton, Lenora.
Sounds like a spoiler, I know, but Arvin becoming a part of the odd little family, rounded off by Uncle Earskell, in Knockemstiff, Ohio, is how our main story really begins. Even though he’s been through his fair bit of trauma, he’s completely unaware of the violence boiling just beneath the surface of this church-centered town. The new, enthusiastic Pastor Teagardin, played by the irresistible Robert Pattinson in the upcoming film, has some unholy habits that won’t be kept secret. The local Sheriff, Lee, is plainly corrupt and his waitress sister Sandy and her photographer husband Carl are serial killers that drive all over the country luring in new victims and photographing them much to the ignorance of their family and friends.
As the trailer says, “how and why people from two points on a map without even a straight line between them can be connected is at the heart of our story,” and that’s exactly what we have here. Everything that came before, the war, Arvin’s parents, Lenora’s parents, Teagardin’s past, Carl and Sandy’s dynamic, all of it will determine how these characters live, how they suffer, and how the cross one another, and no matter how hard some of them will try to be good even the best of intentions can unsuspectingly land them in someone else’s crossfire.
If it’s sounding interesting so far, it also doesn’t hurt that in addition to Robert Pattinson, the film is stacked with some seriously talented actors including Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Haley Bennet, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough.
Sadly, the movie won’t drop on Netflix until September 16th, but if that’s too long for you to wait, I have another suggestion in the meantime. Namely, reading the original book it’s based on by Donald Ray Pollock. Seriously, Pollock’s writing style and the layout of the book, in general, is a masterwork of art I cannot recommend enough. Before it made its way onto the big screen, The Devil All the Time was widely known to readers and non-readers alike as the book they consumed within a matter of days, or even hours. Side note: after reading it you will be too terrified to ever go to visit Ohio in your life. It’s a minor side effect. You probably weren’t going to do that anyway though. Just trust me on this one and get yourself a copy.
Now we all know movies based on books have a history of letting us down, but by the casting and trailer of The Devil All the Time alone, it seems like we can be reasonably optimistic that this film will be as exciting and profound as it looks so far. For those of you who love horror stories, dramatic irony, and clever dialogue, all against a rigid rural setting, this movie will definitely deliver. Even if it is only half as good as the book, that still leaves it in a better place than most films we’ve seen released this year.
Regardless, whether you read the book or wait for the film, you will be blown away by this story and how “hard [it is] to live a good life…[when] it seems like the Devil don’t ever let up.”