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Why The Devil All The Time Is A 'Parade Of Grotesquery' You'll Want To Watch - Exclusive

If you're a fan of dark and gritty Southern Gothic tales filled with an array of despicable human characters, well, Netflix's The Devil All The Time is the perfect film for you. Directed by Antonio Campos and adapted from the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, this grim sort-of soap opera sports a robust cast of A-list actors like Tom Holland, Robert Pattison, Bill Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, and more.

To put it simply, all of their roles are pretty dark, and The Devil All the Time certainly checks off multiple boxes in the proverbial list of messed-up characters. A demented preacher who showers himself in live spiders? Check. A murderous photographer and his malicious model wife who lure dozens of unsuspecting men in for that "killer" photoshoot? Double check. A two-faced reverend who manipulates and impregnates underage women? Check. The list goes on, but save for one character, it's not always so bleak and hopeless.

Just in time for The Devil All the Time to premiere on Netflix on September 16, Looper spoke with director Campos to discuss the film, as well as why viewers will be pulled in to its multifaceted world.

There's a humanity at play even with the most despicable characters

A bulk of the story is told through the eyes of Tom Holland's Arvin Russell, a conflicted young man who lost his mother and watched his hyper-religious, PTSD-stricken war vet father go mad and commit suicide when he was just a little boy. He's flawed, but unlike the others, he's not beyond saving. Arvin is on a path to redemption, and is seemingly the only character with some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Campos is well aware of the fact that this story is filled with copious amounts doom and gloom, but he also feels that there's some humanity shimmering beneath the murkiness. 

"There are a lot of dark characters, but I don't think it's unbearable. I think that the film goes to dark places, but it does so in a way where you can feel for someone in those scenes. It's not like it's just this onslaught of nightmares. There's a humanity at play, even with some of the most despicable characters," the director told Looper. "And there are a lot of elements that provide levity to the world — whether it be the voice of the narrator, a pop music cue, or just a little bit of goofiness in a kind of weird scene."

Robert Pattinson's portrayal of Reverend Preston Teagardin is 'equal parts disgusting and hilarious'

One might also observe another common theme between most of the characters in The Devil All the Time: They're all wearing a façade of some kind, and most of the time, it's extreme religion. For example, In the film, Pattinson plays Reverend Preston Teagardin, a preacher with dashing good looks and demons lurking beneath his holy man exterior. He's the epitome of that old saying, "Never judge a book by its cover." To Campos, The Devil All the Time itself has a duality that's a lot like its characters: It may seem like pure darkness on the surface, but there's a sort of ridiculousness bubbling beneath it all.

"I think that Robert's performance at the end, in that church, is equal parts disgusting and hilarious," explained Campos. "The way that he turns, and you see the wolf under that sheep's clothing, and he's not talking like a preacher anymore. He's like, 'Man, come on.' All of a sudden, he's lost all the performative quality. The whole act drops when he's confronted, and he just becomes this pathetic guy begging for his life, trying to explain this horrible thing he did."

But this is a Southern Gothic tale, after all, and these qualities are just a staple of the genre that Campos clearly loves. Even with a character who's a serial killer that photographs his wife in compromising circumstances with his next unlucky victim, as somber as it may sound, it's just all part of the absurdity that comes with this particular brand of hard-boiled fiction. 

"Even Jason Clarke's character when he's trying to convince Roy to have sex with his wife so that he can take pictures. It's a ridiculous scenario. The movie is playing with some absurdity too. Southern Gothic is a kind of parade of grotesquery. There is the horror of every day that's then put through a funhouse mirror and reflected back, and that's what you're looking at," said Campos. "The movie is really kind of like, not a reflection of reality, but a funhouse mirror reflection of reality. And that's Southern Gothic, that's the grotesquery of every day."

The Devil All the Time is streaming on Netflix now.