The central thematic image of The Devil All the Time is presented to us early on. Serving in the Pacific theatre of World war II, marine Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) comes across another marine who has been crucified and scalped by the Japanese. The man is still alive; Willard gives him a quick death. The strikingly ugly sight of the man on the cross, bloody and suffering, informs the rest of the film; the sacred and the profane, faith and violence, horror and grace.
From there we decamp to the backwoods town of Knockemstiff, Ohio (great name, all other considerations aside). Willard settles and, in the grip of a kind of primitive religious mania, raises a son, Arvin (Tom Holland), who inherits his father’s capacity for violence, if not his crippling psychological scars. He’s our actual protagonist, and his goals are simple: protect his family—chiefly his stepsister—the innocent Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), from any harm. But the story begins to sprawl, encompassing a predatory revival preacher (Robert Pattinson), a pair of serial killers (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), a corrupt sheriff (Sebastian Stan), and more, all twisted together in a labyrinthine tangle of secrets, lies, and sins.