The new Netflix film “The Devil All the Time,” is impossibly star-studded, with a cast that inclues Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Stan and Jason Clarke. But this incredibly dark Southern Gothic tale — based on the book by Donald Ray Pollock — is needlessly brutal and violent.
It includes a man being crucified and skinned, a serial killer, and an incredibly upsetting dog death.
Skarsgard plays Willard, a Marine who witnessed — and committed — terrible atrocities during World War II. Back in Ohio, he becomes incredibly religious. When his wife gets cancer, he believes only a sacrifice can save her life: He shoots his son Arvin’s beloved dog Jack, then strings it up to a cross. Then he kills himself. (Correction to earlier article: He does not actually crucify the dog.)
As critic Courtney Howard writes in Fresh Fiction TV:
An incredibly gruesome dog death portrayed in the first act is unshakable. This slaughter, intended by Willard to be a biblically-inspired blood sacrifice to save his dying wife, represents the abrupt death of 9-year-old Arvin’s (Michael Banks Repeta) childhood innocence and factors into a soul-shattering loss of faith for his father, setting into motion greater consequences for his son’s restless spirit. [Director Antionio] Campos later shows the pup’s corpse in a medium shot (one I’ll refrain from describing since it’s stomach-churning) before panning to discover Willard’s lifeless body underneath. It’s a chilling sequence with the grisly imagery acting as a blatantly shocking and manipulative device. A repulsive revelry starts here, as the filmmakers gleefully bask in the material’s bleak, brutal commentary on the animalistic nature of humans.
If you want more information on how the movie differs from the book, and what the film’s ending means, read this article at Mama’s Geeky.