The key factor to decoding the ever-mystifying nature of The Devil All the Time just might be geographical.
This moody, broody and unapologetically intimidating drama is set in the Ohio town of Knockemstiff. A fitting choice for a movie out to rough-up its audience whenever it gets the chance.
It is within the unspectacularly drab confines of Knockemstiff (a place which actually exists, says Google Maps) that we will find what passes for a protagonist in this defiantly bleak tale.
His name is Arvin (Tom Holland), a loner whose protective instincts towards his adoptive stepsister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) are in the process of becoming feelings of a loving nature.
This being the mid-1950s, Arvin’s good intentions count for little. His father Willard (Bill Skarsgard) is very much a man of God, and has filled his son’s head with pangs of guilt, anger and confusion that continually cloud the boy’s better judgment.
The arrival to the region of a predatory preacher who bills himself as the Reverend Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) raises and multiplies the many pressures Arvin is already under.
Teagardin has a penchant for impressionable young women like Lenora, and soon has her under his spell while Arvin can only look on in anguish.
Meanwhile, the back roads out of town continue to be prowled by Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough), a husband-and-wife serial-killer team who have been getting away with their heinous crimes for some considerable time.
The fact that Sandy just happens to be the sister of the creepily corrupt local sheriff (Sebastian Stan) has not exactly hurt the couple’s chances of remaining at large.
Adapted from Donald Ray Pollock’s acclaimed 2011 novel, The Devil All the Time had no trouble attracting an accomplished cast, all of whom are clearly having a whale of a time sinking their teeth into a set of vividly drawn characters.
However, the movie does experience some trouble establishing viable links between so many seemingly disparate figures. It does eventually get the job done, but some patience is required from viewers in the meantime.
An unpredictable and enjoyably over-the-top performance from Pattinson is definitely a plus because of its showy nature. However, it is Holland – in a world far, far away from anything his Spider-Man alter ego Peter Parker would ever encounter – who leaves the most lasting (and least loathsome) impression here.
The Devil All the Time is now streaming on Netflix
Director: Antonio Campos (Christine)
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen, Bill Skarsgard, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough.
Finding the good within so much evil
Bill & Ted Face the Music (PG)
Did there really have to be a third Bill & Ted movie? No.
Is there any reason, then, to see the third Bill & Ted movie? Yes, quite a few, actually.
All of them are to do with the unlikely, yet undeniable realisation that Bill & Ted Face the Music just plain works.
This big-hearted, dumb lug of a movie simply gets you wrapped up in a sincerely warm bro-hug from the moment it starts, and doesn’t let go until the closing credits roll.
It also does not hurt that the film stars one of the most organically adored stars on the planet in 2020, one Mr Keanu Reeves.
Back in 1991, when Reeves last stepped into the sneakers of the role of Ted, he was already a byword for wooden acting in wonky motion pictures. Not these days. The dude’s low-impact skills only seem to amplify his high-calibre screen charisma. (Try any of Keanu’s magnificent John Wicks if you don’t quite buy this theory.)
In Face the Music, Ted and Bill (the great Alex Winter) are middle-aged hack-muso dads staring down the mother of all midlife crises.
This dynamically distracted duo have just over an hour to write the song that will save the world. Which is not enough time. And because this is a Bill & Ted movie, the pair ultimately elect to paradoxically travel into the future to steal the song from themselves.
Of course, it does not make a lick of sense. But this is a screen universe where logic, the laws of physics and the books of history will only wipe that dopey grin on your face.
File this under “minor movie miracle”: Bill and Ted actually improved with age.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is now showing in selected cinemas (excluding Victoria)
Director: Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, William Sadler.
Third time’s a charm