Netflix has finally dropped its star-studded film adaptation of the Donald Ray Pollock novel The Devil All the Time, and the movie is a wild ride from start to finish. There are a lot of things in the project that may throw audiences for a loop — like your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man cussing and killing people — but in my opinion, the true scene stealer is Robert Pattinson. (Warning: This post contains mild spoilers.)
The Devil All the Time follows five different people in the backwoods part of the Midwest whose lives are mysteriously connected. Bringing them all together is Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), a teenager from the small town of Knockemstiff, Ohio. Raised mostly by his grandmother after the untimely deaths of his parents, Arvin’s only concern as a young man is taking care of his family, specifically of his adopted half-sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). The girl is mercilessly picked on by her classmates but remains a positive person, leaning on her faith in God for comfort.
Enter Pattinson's creepy character, skeevy new pastor Preston Teagardin. As reverends go, Teagardin is pretty terrible; he shames the congregation for being poor and makes up theology to fit his own nefarious purposes. Worst of all, he routinely grooms teenage girls from the congregation, using God as a thinly veiled excuse for sexually assaulting them.
"Delusions!" cries Teagardin during a particularly passionate
scam sermon, sweat dripping down his powder blue church suit. "Blaspheming the Lord in your mind and in your heart for some wrong done to your by another person!"
Lenora unfortunately falls victim to his devices, and she finds herself pregnant and afraid because the not-so-good reverend doesn't want anything to do with her or her baby. Terrified of the shame that having a baby out of wedlock would bring upon her pious grandmother, Lenora ends up taking her own life. And the loss sets Arvin down a dark and dangerous path for revenge, the first stop leading him straight to Reverend Teagardin.
Pattinson has always been good at acting, but he practically disappears into the role of Reverend Teagardin in The Devil All the Time. Throughout his scenes in the Netflix film, it's hard to believe that Pattinson is not actually the monster he's portraying. It’s the accent for me, really — where the hell did that come from?
No one saw that high-pitched, nasally southern accent coming, not even director Antonio Campos, who worked closely with Pattinson to create the character's backstory. In a recent interview with Esquire UK, Campos revealed that he and Pattinson had gone to great lengths to bring Reverend Teagardin to life, but even the director was utterly stunned by what the Tenet star brought to set.
"[Robert and I] looked at a lot of different YouTube videos of evangelical preachers and also the pop-stars of the time," Campos told the outlet. "Like listening to interviews with Elvis and hearing the way he would talk. Then Rob’s own madness; he had his own process and was on his own consuming a lot of different references. I didn’t really hear the accent until we started to shoot, he really showed up in character and showed me Teagardin for the first time."
"Sometimes he’d go so far he’d make himself laugh and even in those takes we might get something brilliant, but it was like he would kind of zero in and be in it," he continued. "The performance is almost closer to a possession than it is a performance."
We've been blessed with many a Pattinson accent since the British actor hit the mainstream — who can forget his Queens accent in Good Time or that laughable French-adjacent timbre in The King? — but this one might be the most unsettling. It's so ridiculously convincing that I truly can't remember what Pattinson sounds like in real life. That's called "the range."
Experience the chills for yourself — stream The Devil All the Time on Netflix now.