For a while, Antonio Campos’ The Devil All the Time casts an effective spell. Adapted from the book of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, the film is packed with stars — Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, just to name a few — all playing characters that are larger in life in some way. But the longer the film wears on, the thinner that spell becomes. Pollock’s novel follows disparate characters across two generations of a family. Campos and his brother Paulo Campos, who co-wrote the script, do their best to pack the entire book into 138 minutes, but the sheer amount of compacting that has to happen turns the story into a litany of unfortunate events rather than an American epic.
Most of the action is concentrated around Holland, who plays a young man named Arvin Russell. Among the people in his orbit are Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), his step-sister and the daughter of the woman his grandmother wanted his father (Skarsgård) to marry; Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Keough), a couple who indulge in murdering hitchhikers and taking photos of the gruesome killings; and Pattinson as the less-than-holy Reverend Teagardin.
The characters pass in and out of the story. Though Arvin is ostensibly the film’s central character, the action often drifts away from him as the Campos brothers attempt to keep the audience up to date with what everyone’s up to, no matter how far apart they are. The colorful performances help keep the constantly bouncing focus from getting too grating, but there are still too many cooks in the kitchen. The film is spread so thin in trying to focus on so many characters that the characters get boiled down to Southern accents and a single personality trait each.
In some cases, as in Pattinson’s, that’s enough. Pattinson’s performance in The Devil All the Time feels of a kind with his turn in The King last year: Teagardin has a pronounced accent and a reedy vocal timbre, and is one of the film’s more caricature-esque characters by virtue of how incredibly slimy he is. Pattinson goes big with the performance, especially when Teagardin is preaching, big enough that it doesn’t matter that Teagardin doesn’t have any backstory or real reason for being, other than bringing further misery into Arvin’s life.
In other cases, however, the lack of character development can’t quite be covered up. Clarke, for instance, is given nothing to work with except a penchant for violence and a few tics that are only explained in voiceover, by Pollock himself. As for violence, the movie is overflowing with it. Only a couple of moments are truly gory, but barely a single thing happens to Arvin and his family that isn’t driven by malice or revenge. The misfortunes visited upon the Russells become so frequent that it’s almost laughable. One character, about to attempt suicide by hanging, decides not to, then accidentally knocks over the bucket they were standing on. It’s a tragedy, yes, but a blip in the film’s emotional stakes, because so little time has been spent on developing these characters’ inner lives.
That thinness also makes some of the editing choices all the more baffling. While the primary narrative thrust is linear, a few moments are revisited in a “gotcha” way, as the retreads offer up a few new details about whatever happened in that scene. The effect isn’t shocking so much as frustrating, not least because the added information only colors in a little more of the overall picture. On top of that, while Campos is trying to be expansive, the scope of the film never expands widely enough to include a single person of color. As Campos casts his lens upon a few recurring secondary characters as well as the community surrounding the Russells, filling in the space the Russells are living in, that exclusion feels increasingly clumsy.
The Devil All the Time makes its milieu as tangible as possible, with each person and location covered in a convincing amount of dust and dirt. It’s filled with pretty faces, but quality cinematography doesn’t mean that much in the end. The film is easy on the eyes, and its cast is strong, but that doesn’t make up for a thin story. The action keeps moving by necessity, given how many characters are in play, but stop to inspect the proceedings, and it becomes clear that that movement isn’t based on much.
The Devil All the Time is streaming on Netflix now.
Ring made a security drone that flies around inside your home
Building the drone was “no mean feat,” according to founder Jamie Siminoff, adding that it was a challenge to integrate Ring’s software and hardware teams to pull this off. The blades are shrouded and Ring says that its collision-avoidance technology is good enough to zoom around the tight spaces of your home. In addition, the drone only flies on preordained flight paths, reducing the risk of you driving it into a wall.
This year, Ring has come under enormous scrutiny over its privacy practices, something that it wanted to address when announcing the Always Home Cam. As part of this, the drone is designed to hum loudly while in flight to warn people that it’s filming, and when it docks, the camera is obscured by the base station.
Amazon isn’t the first company offering home-patrol drones, although it may be the most accessible. Sunflower Labs, at the start of this year, showed off a $10,000 drone that could monitor the outside of your home. Thankfully, Ring’s version will only cost $250 when it goes on sale in 2021.
At the same time, Ring also wants to protect your mail with the imaginatively titled Mailbox Sensor, which attaches to your mailbox. The unit, which sits inside the door, will detect motion and alert your phone when you know that mail has been placed inside. Unlike the other products Ring announces today, it’ll be available to pre-order on October 8th, setting you back the altogether reasonable price of $30.
Left 4 Dead 2 gets one final, massive update
Left 4 Dead 2, Valve’s iconic zombie shooter, turns 11 next month. Today, the game gets a final, massive update — The Last Stand, created by the Left 4 Dead community update team and endorsed by Valve itself. It’s also the first new content added to the game since 2012, according to Polygon. (That was the community-made DLC Cold Stream.)
The update adds tons of new content to the game: new weapons, new maps, new enemy types, unused dialogue, and even a new campaign. The update is free to download, and Left 4 Dead 2 itself is also free to play until September 28th — so there’s no reason not to grab it right now.
And this isn’t the first — or highest-profile — time that Valve has endorsed a fan-made update to one of its games. That honor goes to Black Mesa, a remake of the original Half Life that took 15 years to make and publish. (It just left early access this year, though work on the project began in 2005.)
As Polygon noted, the announcement for this new update was made on the old official Left 4 Dead site.
“It has been many years since the infection first hit. Radio silence, no sign of life, nothing but lingering hopes… CEDA is not going to save us,” the post reads. “But there is hope! A few brave souls have continued the fight against all odds, and soon we can all benefit from their resilience.” That day has come. It’s time to go kill some more zombies.
Deep Rock Galactic gets its first post-launch update
Deep Rock Galactic mixes the panicked survival gameplay of a game like Left 4 Dead with clever gizmos and gadgets crafted by a crew of science fiction dwarves. The game recently left early access, and its first post-launch release is slated for Oct. 8.
In the fiction of Deep Rock Galactic, players take on the role of spacefaring dwarves. They pick from four classes, which each have their own unique ways to get around the game with gadgets like hookshots and flares. Then it’s down deep they go, into asteroids to mine for ore. The maps are procedurally generated, so the tunnels change from round to round. Invariably there’s some alien menace that they must contend with, before retracing their steps back to the landing craft.
Update 32, Roughnecks at Work, will include new content: two new game types called Escort Duty and On-Site Refining, a new mission select screen, and a series of technical changes and balance fixes that should improve the rest of the game.
Escort Duty asks dwarves to get a Heartstone, which requires a specially-built Drilldozer to make its way through the walls of the Heartstone and claim that good, good ore. This is meant to be a very combat heavy mission, with dwarves protecting the Drilldozer at all costs. The second new mission, On-Site Refining, tasks miners with finding wells. They’ll have to use a new oil pumping system to get the valuable liquid back to base.
Deep Rock Galactic is available on Steam, Xbox One, and the Windows Store.
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