The latest Netflix original horror thriller The Devil all the Way, an adaptation of American writer Donald Ray Pollock’s debut novel, has no lack of disturbing characters: a distressed war veteran, a serial-killer-couple, an insane reverend and a perverted preacher. Despite the twisted content, good cinematography and plenty of iconic stars prevent the film from becoming a failure.
The Devil all the Way spans across two generations and focusses on various characters, each of whom bears his or her own secret from the past and eventually ends up with an unexpected fate.
While serving on the Solomon Island during WWII US Marine Willard Russell comes upon a scalped, skinned, and crucified American soldier, killing him to end his agony. This experience causes him to have PTSD and adopt a disturbing set of religious convictions when
he returns home to Coal Creek, West Virginia.
He turns to prayer to cope with his issues and even hopes it will save his wife Charlotte after she is diagnosed with cancer. Despite his efforts she still dies, prompting a grieving Willard to commit suicide next to a cross in the woods behind his house, thus orphaning his 9-year-old son Arvin.
After his father’s death, Arvin goes to live with his uncle Earskell, his grandmother Emma and her adopted daughter Lenora, all devote Christians. Arvin grows up protecting his loved ones in a town full of corruption and sinister characters, including a spider-eating preacher who is convinced he can bring back the dead and a married couple who pick up hitchhikers, photograph them, and kill them.
The Devil all the Way addresses religion, corruption, mental illness and psychopathy. To have all of these themes in a novel is achievable but could be seen as too much for a single film, explaining why it is over two ours in length.
However, the director and screenwriter Antonio Campos deserves credit for inspiring the viewer’s curiosity. The live-in quality of the film gives a tone and feel that works well thanks to the methodical and atmospheric approach to telling such a rich and lengthy story.
The film is ambitious and successful in terms of its cast. It stars Tom Holland, who is better known for his role as Spiderman in the Avenger franchise, as Arvin. He does an amazing job of displaying the despair and anger of his character, despite his young and innocent looking features. There is also Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, and Bill Skarsgard, essentially having Winter Solder, the upcoming Batman and Pennywise in the same cast. Holland is disappointingly the only major character in the film, despite the other impressive performances.
However, having the original author do the narration in the adaptation is remarkably fresh.
The Devil all the Way is one of the most disturbing Netflix originals, but things could be scarier in real life. The film teaches us that the only harmful demons for humans are the ones in your own mind.