THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME – Review by Susan Granger

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If this dreary dirge didn’t have an all-star cast, it would never have been green-lit – and, sadly, the actors cannot save it.

Set in the 1950s and ‘60s in the rural Appalachian towns of Knockemstiff, Ohio, and Coal Creek, West Virginia, it’s a cruel, domestic drama, featuring some really sick, sadistic families affected by two sin-soaked, Bible-thumping preachers.

Their sorry saga begins as rage-filled Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard) returns from W.W.II and falls in love with diner waitress Charlotte (Hayley Bennett); she subsequently dies of cancer, leaving him with nine year-old Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta), who’s sent to live in his Grandma Emma (Kristin Griffith).

Emma’s already caring for another orphan, Leonora (Eliza Scanlen), whose crazy preacher father (Harry Melling) killed her mother (Mia Wasikowska) in a religious fervor, believing that he would be able to resurrect her.

As a teenager, anguish-filled Leonora is often bullied, making her an easy mark for sleazy Rev. Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattison), who takes advantage of her naïve innocence, infuriating now-grown Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), who wreaks revenge.

Meanwhile, a crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan) is tracking an amateur photographer (Jason Clarke) and his wife (Riley Keough). She’s the sheriff’s sister who worked in that diner with Charlotte. Their diversion is to pick up hitchhikers and force them to engage in sex rituals which lead to their violent demise.

Based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, who laconically narrates the sprawling, convoluted noir plot, it’s adapted by director Antonio Compos and his brother, Paulo Campos, with too many confusing, intertwined flashbacks/vignettes, wallowing in lurid, demented depravity.

The Gothic backwoods characters are so superficial that they fail to elicit sympathy or even empathy on the part of the audience. While Bill Skarsgard (best known as Pennywise the Clown in It) and Tom Holland (best known as Spider-Man) deliver creditable performances, Robert Pattinson’s nasal whine barely passes for a Southern accent.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Devil All the Time” is a grimly voyeuristic, futile 4, not worth your time.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.