You feel a shiver of anticipation go down your spine when The Devil All the Time starts.
Evil is fascinating. Because most of us are too chicken to even steal a bar of chocolate from the local store. We are so civilised, we don’t even wish the virus gets the better of a neighbour who is constantly nasty to everyone. That’s why I watched The Devil All The Time as soon as it released on September 16.
You feel a shiver of anticipation go down your spine when the film starts with:’Four hundred or so people lived in Knockemstiff in 1957. Nearly all of them connected by blood through one godforsaken calamity or another, be it lust or necessity or just plain ignorance.’
The faces you see in this film are stellar. From It’s Pennywise Bill Skarsgård, to Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Winter Soldier), from the new Batman (Robert Pattinson) to Harry Potter’s Dudley (Harry Melling) this movie has it all. And of course there is Spidey: Tom Holland who plays Arvin Russell, the protagonist of this grim film. The female cast is just as enviable in their filmographies (Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Riley Keough) as the men. When you see grandma (played brilliantly by Kristin Griffith) seethe as she comes out of church and sits in the car, knowing the priest insulted her, you wish this were a mini series that delved more into characters like her and not this film held together with narration. But as with stories of rural Bible belt, women do get relegated to minor roles that leave you wishing for more.
I said rural, not pastoral. That’s why even though we see lots of green – the serial killers driving off the main road and into the woods, the priest parking his car by the woods to seduce young girls – there is a constant colour palette through the movie that seems to be brown. Yes, this film has serial killers as well as creepy pastors and more. But framed by an all pervasive brown that depressing and more than sad. It reminds you what all religious texts promise as concepts: redemption and saving, but it shows a reality where the poorest of the poor will never get saved.
But, all is not depressing. The film begins with two young men finding their destiny at a diner. Willard Russell is back after a harrowing time in the war in the South Pacific and discovers his angel in Charlotte (played by the gorgeous Haley Bennett) who serves him a coffee and a donut. And the other waitress, Sandy – new to her job – finds love in a photographer who disarms her by praising her smile.
Willard marries Charlotte and they live in a house on top of the Mitchell Flats, and as the omnipresent voice of the narrator tells you, ‘They lived there for nine years and yet the people called them outsiders’. In a flash it reminds you of being the new kid in a new school in a new city all through your childhood because your father had a government job. In a flash you like the little boy Arvin who only has his dog Jack for company. It’s not that the whole movie is sad. The scene between Charlotte and her son Arvin singing and humming a song together as she sits flour and he reads a comic book is such a wonderful scene of domestic bliss, it makes you wish there were more of those in this film.
Sandy on the other hand, chooses to run with the photographer (played by Jason Clark, you have seen him in Mudbound, Zero Dark Thirty and even The Terminator films). This film is set in the years between 1957 and 1968, and there sure were no records of police investigating serial killings of hitchhikers. This pair made me pause the film and read the book online. The author, Donald Ray Pollock who also narrates the film in his very interesting MidWest accent actually lived in the town called Knockemstiff. And says in his interviews that he wrote about the people around him.
The result is a book and film that makes you worry about your belief in God. Everyone in this town goes to church, there is a constant presence of the bible, the belief in God as savior and redeemer and images of crucifixion everywhere. It’s like events and reality that is so different from the faith the people have in God. Of course there are creepy pastors who will take advantage of the poor folk! They make the struggle to believe that much more difficult.
Little Arvin who has seen his father put up a cross outside their home to pray to God, has also seen his father sacrifice his dog so that his wife can be saved. Arvin has grown up learning from his dad that he has to wait for revenge because there are a lot of sons of ****** who deserve it. Arvin (Tom Holland) has grown up in his grandma’s home who is already taking care of Lenora, his sort of step sister. Grandma wanted his dad to marry Lenora’s mum but she chose to marry the local Bible thumper. That is a thread you will watch with jaws on the floor.
Lenora is religious like her mum and grandma. Arvin has seen too much and isn’t a believer. Halfway through the movie, arrives a priest from out of town. He reminded me of the traveling churches in tents I have seen in Oregon and Washington. The priests mesmerise rural folk and run away with their money in the middle of the night, folding their tents. Pastor Preston Teagardin is all powder blue suits and white ruffled shirts and drives a flashy baby blue Cadillac with fins. He speaks of fire and damnation and scares the townsfolk into praying to the good god like they’ve never done before. In his spare time he seduces young girls and when he tells Lenora, ‘Show yourself to God as he made you,’ you stop the movie and get yourself some good old fashioned chai.
(This story has not been edited by Fact Checker India staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)