The Devil All the Time – Josh Tiddy

by Josh Tiddy

The Devil All the Time is a thriller film directed by Antonio Campos, based on a novel by Donald Ray Pollock. It was released on September 11, 2020. The plot follows several different characters in post-World War II, small town Ohio and West Virginia. The depiction of this part of the South in the film is especially interesting because of its dark and almost terrifying nature.

The film begins in a West Virginia forest where character Willard Russell is praying to a crucifix (Pictured to the Right). The audience is then taken back to Willard’s connection to it. It is shown that he saw a soldier crucified while serving in the South Pacific. He is later shown back in the States where he can hardly look at a cross due to Post-Traumatic stress. These gory images are soon contrasted by a brief glorification of the South in which Willard meets his wife, has a child named Arvin, and buys a quaint Southern home in the country. It is after he has settled into a pleasant Southern life that he decides to make a return to praying. He builds the crucifix that is shown at the beginning of the film. This is when the writer chooses to show the negative aspects of the local way of life and, more specifically, of the reliance on God that is present in the area. A preacher that was introduced earlier in the film murders his wife and their child, Lenora, is left with Willard’s mother. Soon after this, Willard’s wife dies of cancer and he kills himself at the crucifix. Arvin moves in with his mother and Lenora where things are normal for a time. When Arvin is grown, a new pastor, who is shown to have a high level of influence on the town, is introduced. The pastor uses his power in the community to force sexual relations with underaged women. The pastor impregnates Lenora and convinces her to kill herself so that the baby is not born. Arvin kills the pastor in the church and escapes the cursed part of the South in which he was raised.

The Devil All the Time provides a unique critique of the Southern reliance on faith and God. Every time a character turns to God, it is to their own detriment. The only character that truly escapes the grim life in West Virginia is Arvin, who shows no connection to God throughout the film. The sentiments and writerly choices expressed in the film challenge the stereotypical disposition of the South and of God as good and pleasant.


“Only In The Presence Of Death Could He Feel The Presence Of Something Like God.”

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