‘The Devil All the Time’ Review: Down-Home Livin’ and Dyin’

It’s a mystery where Robert Pattinson picked up the eccentric nasal whine that he (amusingly) deploys in “The Devil All the Time.” Pattison plays one of those bad preachers who ride through certain deep-fried fictions, the smooth talkers with scripture on their forked tongues and sin in their withered hearts. Sometimes these devious souls have “love” and “hate” tattooed on their fingers (or at least once watched Robert Mitchum’s unholy man in the 1955 noir “The Night of the Hunter”). However wicked, these bad men of the cloth invariably embody religious hypocrisy.

No one is up to any good in “Devil,” a leisurely wallow in the kind of flamboyant evil that some filmmakers just can’t quit, won’t quit. The preacher, Rev. Preston Teagardin, is the least of this story’s ills. By the time he does his worst, knuckles have been bloodied, bullets fired, a dog sacrificed and a man tortured, to list just some of this potboiler’s horrors, which also include a pair of industrious serial killers. Here, in a swath of Appalachia that stretches from Ohio to West Virginia — a land of green woods, white people and Gothic clichés — little rises but everything must converge.

Directed by Antonio Campos, the busy, sprawling movie centers on the manifestly unlucky Arvin, played as an adult by Tom Holland, best known as Spider-Man. A second Marvel alumnus, Sebastian Stan, plays a sheriff. The movie features other blurrily familiar faces, including those of Bill Skarsgard and Haley Bennett, who play Arvin’s parents. They met in an Ohio diner where she’s a waitress and he’s a customer, a World War II veteran home; that same day, a photographer (Jason Clarke) meets another waitress (Riley Keough). Arvin’s parents wed and settle in Ohio for their unhappily ever after; the other couple rides off to kill and kill again.

The coincidence of these two matches cleaves the story into not-quite parallel parts that eventually meet again. Until then, Arvin faces minor and major miseries, and ends up living with relatives in West Virginia. There, he mostly protects a family ward (Eliza Scanlen), whose own unhappy history involves a victimized mother (Mia Wasikowska) and odiously malevolent Bible thumpers. Every so often, the serial killers briefly pop up so that Keough can goose the movie. Things only really heat up for Arvin when Rev. Teagardin oozes into town, talking down to his flock and wearing a frilly shirt that doesn’t stay white for long.

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