The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★½

Flannery O'Connor was the greatest author of Southern Gothic. At the center of her work was one certainty: given enough time and enough fear of the retribution after death, men will build their own hell to live in. Through that precept, her character's beliefs are made manifest. Their damnation isn't diabolical, it is built from their own actions. Celestial structures dissolve into the basal matter of choice.

Campos uses these ideas as garland. He takes the trappings of Appalachia - the woods and hollows, sweat-stained shirts and screen doors - and washes it in a layer of religious import. Endless shots of crosses and clasped hands and twisted lips proselytizing. Nothing is driven by choice. Every character's actions are part of a grand scheme, an O.Henry web of causality that places everything in its optimal dramatic moment.

Under all the production design and time jumps and gnashing of teeth is the same violent revenge tale that has become the lonely centerpiece of the American R-rated film. The movie has nothing to say about the fated acts it depicts, presenting them limply and directly, like a child offering a fingerpainting.

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