From the beginning of The Strade del Evil, narrated by the writer Donald Ray Pollock (and his voice will accompany us for all two hours and twenty), we immediately understand that the frame is the protagonist of this epic; a contextual and contextualized frame in relation to a story developed between the Fifties and the Sixties. And we remember that the white, narrow-minded and violent America we know was certainly not born with the 2016 elections. At best, we can speak of a legitimation of certain creeping ideals, built decades back. We should go back to the very end of the Second World War, when thousands of boys had become men on the European and Asian front, returning home with disappointments and scars that certainly would not have been absorbed with prayer.
Thus, they took refuge in repressed torments, immersing themselves in the pages of the Bible. Driven, between sermons and barkers, to pursue who knows what divine will, in an ultra-Catholic, conservative and aberrant ecstasy that still rages in that rural and wild Midwest, needle of a political and social balance. And it is here, in the woods of Ohio and West Virginia, that the brutal characters of the film The Devil All The Time by Antonio Campos intertwine, distributed by Netflix and based, precisely, on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock , released in 2011. A time and a precise geographical place, as mentioned, told through the epic of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), crossed (by fate or by chance) with that of frightening figures: a pair of crazy killers (Riley Keough and Jason Clarke), a perverse Reverend (Robert Pattinson) and an ambiguous sheriff (Sebastian Stan).
But, as bestial as the shadows of the story are, it is his father, veteran Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård, film after film increasingly good), who conditions Arvin’s journey most of all. So, here comes back that typical plot of a certain literature: the sins of fathers that fall on their children, in a vicious circle that is impossible to interrupt. At least until the ghosts of the past are buried once and for all. And it is this, between violence and desperation, that Arvin does: the director constructs the film as a black fairy tale, studded with disgusting and dirty protagonists, born from a land with no past or future, cultivated by intolerance, ignorance and legacies of a religion distorted by weak men, hidden behind the excuse of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And, even we are in West Virginia, those “Mountain Mama” that John Denver sang are far away: no ties, but only blood in a kind of modern frontier caught in the grip of pain and forgiveness, ready for yet another conflict that would, in fact, definitively breaking the new ideals of those who, like Arvin, have found their own way to go. So, the Campos film, embellished with a formidable ensemble cast, photography by Lol Crawley and an incessant soundtrack that mixes on the radio pieces of Ferlin Husky, Kitty Kallen, Billy Walker or Sonny James, certainly does not want illuminating the darkness, but revealing a story of fathers and sons, of damned existences and filthy souls. In the America of contradictions, anger and violence. A violence idolized as if it were a cross dripping innocent blood. Today like yesterday.