Book vs. Movie: The Devil All the Time

Hello, my darling readers!
Before we get ready for spooky season with all things horror in October I’m going to use September to bring you some book vs. movie and book vs. TV show posts. To kick off this little mini-series we’re talking about The Devil All the Time. I’ve been curious about this one ever since Netflix dropped the first trailer, and I finally got around to finishing the book and the adaptation!

The Plot (according to Goodreads):

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right. 

Book vs. Movie:

Well, that was an interesting novel. The vibe somehow reminded me of Stephen King’s 1922 or And the Ass saw the Angel, though that might be something that only makes sense in my head. 😅 I wouldn’t even know how to explain, it’s just a very specific feeling it got from reading all of those books.
So, what is there to say about The Devil All the Time? Well, first of all, it’s dark. It’s not exactly the kind of novel you go around recommending to people. Pollock has some seriously twisted and fucked up characters in this one. Interestingly, even though we get a bunch of questionable characters, everybody is fucked up in their own way. For example, I got an uneasy feeling from both Willard as well as from Carl and Sandy, but for *very* different reasons. I can’t really go deeper into this without adding spoilers, so let’s just say that I was fascinated!
Another thing I enjoyed is how Pollock weaved together the different story lines. He did a great job with interconnecting everything, especially across time (the books spans over quite a few years).
While this was not an easy book to read, it found it very interesting and well-written. Morever, I kept thinking several times that certain passages would translate brilliantly to the screen, so you can imagine how hyped I was to finally check out the movie!

The first thing I noticed about the film was that everybody got a Hollywood makeover. This was to be expected but it still bothered me. The cast did a great job and they are certainly not at fault here. But Pollock goes to quite some lengths detailling how ugly (or *extremely* plain) some characters are which also influences how they are treated in the story and how they react/feel. But when those roles are played by Mia Wasikowsa and Eliza Scanlen all that gets lost in translation and I just found it to be extremely annoying. By the way, those were not the only two characters where this was the case. But let’s ignore this for now.
In general I enjoyed the casting decisions made for this film (even though I’m still not sure what Robert Pattinson’s accent was supposed to be). However, one role who was really cast to perfection was Tom Holland as Arvin. He always kind of reminded me of a puppy and in this movie he embodies the puppy who got kicked one too many times and bites back. He did a brilliant job!

Generally speaking, the adaptation stays very close to the novel and only features some tiny alterations. For example, the timeline of Sandy and Carl is adjusted a bit to juxtapose them with Willard and Charlotte, whereas in the book their whole stick started a bit later. I read some reviews on the movie where people disliked it for being too dark which I found curious as the adaptation is actually less dark than the book. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of fucked up shit going on, but Pollock made sure to get in knees deep and detailled the exploits of all featured characters in more depth. Sandy and Carl are a good example for that. I don’t want to say much because spoilers, but in the book their story felt so much worse because we heard more of it.
Another slight difference – one which I didn’t mind – is the ending which is also a tad more hopeful in the film than it originally was.

This was a good adaptation. Granted the originally story really lends itself to be seen on screen. To be honest the book wasn’t 100% my cup of tea to begin with, but I nevertheless enjoyed it. The movie sticks very close the novel and impresses with a star-studded cast-list. They did a great job bringing the story to life, but again as I didn’t *love* the source material, I liked the movie but that’s it. It’s good but I’m not sure I’d rewatch it any time soon.

Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Book vs. Movie: The Devil All the Time

  1. Pingback: Wrapping it up for September | The Punk Theory

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