The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★½

Unquestionably the most authentic aspect of this film, which is fixated on the most depraved and sinister people in a town near the Ohio/Kentucky/West Virginia border, is the narration, furnished by the author of the source material, Donald Ray Pollack. Pollack is a native Ohioian, and his natural Southern drawl ballasts the film's aesthetic of overdetermined dilapidation: comprehensively destitute interiors, threadbare denim overalls, the sweat-ridden garb worn by traveling pastors, etc. Pollack's narration is the optimal distillation of his storytelling, which the actors relay in discernibly "southern" but too enunciated accents.

Like the film, Pollack's novel is rife in violence — there’re twentysomething chapters and someone perishes in most of them. The film is dutiful in featuring all of this violence but none of the introspection preceding it. So the result is a bunch of southern gothic caricatures (corrupt pastors, corrupt police, impoverished families), a pantomimic version of a place with which none of the production personnel seems to have had any meaningful familiarity.