With awards season gearing up for its COVID-soaked run, many critics pointed out The Devil All the Time, the backwoods drama from director-writer Antonio Campos, could garner some awards recognition. It boasts an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Haley Bennett, Riley Keough, Harry Melling, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen and Jason Clarke, while Campos has gained notoriety for his 2016 release Christine and the USA Network series The Sinner (he directed 5 episodes). Based on the critically acclaimed 2011 novel of the same name, Devil has all the ingredients for Oscar love. Is it worthy, though? In short, no, but some will likely gush over this Netflix release.

Taking place in rural Ohio between the end of World War II and the Vietnam War, Devil is almost an anthology. It covers multiple stories and initially feels like a post-war drama – at least when Campos focuses on U.S. Marine Willard Russell (Skarsgård) as he begins his new life with his new bride, Charlotte (Bennett) and their infant son, Arvin.

Campos then redirects his focus on a teenage Arvin (Holland), now living with his grandmother, great uncle and adopted sister, Lenora (Scanlen). Arvin constantly protects Lenora since she’s constantly picked on for being deeply religious and highly chaste. Arvin, though, has a violent temper and his patience is tested when the new minister, Reverend Preston Teagardin (Pattinson), arrives and proves he’s not as God-fearing as his calling would suggest.

Its title is very fitting, since good people are in short supply. Arvin and Willard’s storylines are mere portions of all the goings on, but apparently Ohio is full of sinners. Devil comes with all kinds of malfeasance - corrupt cops, serial killers, cultists, adulterers and the like. What’s upsetting is there’s no explanation for any of the wrongdoing. Besides, how do these small towns full of supposed religious types harbor so much hate? That seems to be the point Campos is trying to make – evil can appear anywhere and motivations as to why aren’t necessary.

In that sense, Devil is essentially horror porn, which itself is an issue. But it also sadly lacks sympathy for women (that might be giving away too much). There are too many talented females in this cast, yet Campos gave them little to do. Women in Devil only exist to move the multiple storylines along and they take the brunt of the violence. In that sense, Devil is a misogynist’s dream come true. Witnessing that took me out of Devil, especially when it came to Helen’s (Wasikowska) storyline, Lenora’s mother.

Since none of the women get to flex their acting muscles, Holland and Pattinson have a clear path to do their thing. Admittedly, they are good. Holland moves away from Peter Parker/Spider-Man - a jovial know-it-all who has attention issues; and towards a brooding, chain-smoking Arvin, with a midwestern accent and a short fuse ready to explode on those who threaten him or his family. Holland let loose as Arvin as he showed his willingness to protect Lenora at all costs.

Pattinson, though, is the clear acting champ amongst the cast. Rev. Teagardin is as creepy as they come - despite being married, he doesn’t mind stepping out on her. It’s who Teagardin preys on that brings out his horns – you half expect those appendages to pop out through his slicked back mane. If anyone has a shot at any awards love, it’s Pattinson. They say the devil wears Prada – in this case the devil wears cheap suits, tuxedo shirts and a slimy grin.

Alas, Devil is Campos’ look at a sinful yester-world that’s gotten worse in subsequent years. I like that Campos isn’t scared to point out churchgoers’ hypocrisies, but the wrongdoing is so rampant Devil eschews all traces of good. Plus, Devil is slow and terribly predictable, while it employs a useless narrator who fails to add tension. Worst of all, the narrator acted more like a sports announcer, providing a play-by-play of each scene while nearly informing viewers exactly what would happen.

So, if you feel the real world doesn’t contain enough gross misconduct and you feel like the need for more, then The Devil All the Time should satisfy those urges. Otherwise, stay away from this predictable, paint-by-numbers drama that cares little for people and even less for women.

2 stars out of 5


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