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Netflix released a new gothic thriller on September 16 called “The Devil All The Time.” Directed by Antonio Campos, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. An outstanding ensemble cast collaborated on the project, including Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Harry Melling, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Riley Keough and Haley Bennett. Here’s what audiences and critics are saying about the film so far.
A Southern Gothic tale of small-town sin
Set between two isolated towns – Knockemstiff, Ohio, and Coal Creek, West Virginia – the interconnected storylines spiral around Arvin Russell (Tom Holland plays the “grown up” version), whose father (played by Bill Skarsgard) is haunted by visions of a grotesque crucifixion witnessed on the battleground during World War II.
Narrated by Donald Ray Pollock, the film opens with “It seemed his father had fought the devil all the time.” On top of the haunted visions, Arvin’s father, Willard Russell, is facing the loss of his beloved wife. Grief-stricken, he forces Arvin to join him in his outcry to God at a cross he’s erected in the woods. His grief and religious obsession drives him to extreme acts of devotion, which leave a marked impression on young Arvin.
In a parallel storyline, an evangelical preacher named Roy Laferty pours spiders on his face in a demonstration of faith, leading to a bite that leaves him with a shaky grip on reality and a belief that he can resurrect the dead. Meanwhile, a serial killing couple picks up hitchhikers for sordid and murderous intentions. They eventually cross paths with both Laferty and Russell, bringing the three storylines together in an examination of violence, faith and evil.
Critics and audiences are divided
The 138-minute film, produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, was shot in Alabama from February through April 2019, and it has divided audience and critics opinions. Rotten Tomatoes holds the film’s approval rating at 65% based on 164 critic reviews, stating “‘The Devil All the Time’’s descent into darkness can be harrowing to the point of punishment, but it’s offset by strong work from a stellar cast.”
The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is much higher, currently scored at 82%. IMDb gives the film a score of 7.1/10, based on more than 40,000 ratings. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average of 54/100, based on the reviews from 36 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.” Despite critics not raving about the R-rated movie, audiences seem to be loving the film. Metacritic indicates the film has received “generally favorable reviews” by users, with an average score of 7.9/10 based on 156 user reviews.
The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips gave a positive review of the gothic thriller, saying, “It’s easy on the eyes, though, and it’s worth seeing for an intriguingly cast ensemble, authenticating the milieu as much as possible. Holland’s terrific, taking in each new setback in Arvin’s life without revealing the full extent of the damage.” However, IndieWire’s Ryan Lattanzio seems to disagree, giving a C- for the film. Lattanzio states it to be a “colossal misfire, a sweaty mess from start to finish," while still agreeing that the performances are fantastic.
This divide between critics and audiences is something we’ve seen before in Hollywood, but it is interesting to note the huge divide between the two groups. One of the only common factors that everyone seems to agree on are the outstanding performances from the entire cast, but particularly Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson. One thing is for sure – the only way to know is to give it a watch yourself.
“The Devil All The Time” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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