How Gospel Set the Mood in New Netflix Thriller ‘The Devil All the Time’

·3 min read

Harry Melling and Pokey LaFarge perform a haunting gospel song in an exclusive clip from Netflix’s new Southern Gothic thriller, The Devil All the Time. The film is produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and music supervisor Randall Poster, and stars an ensemble cast that includes Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Stan and Robert Pattinson.

Taking place between World War II and the Vietnam War, The Devil All the Time stars Skarsgård as Willard Russell, a soldier returning to his family from a tour in the War in the Pacific, haunted by images of violence and combat. In the clip, Willard sits in on a service by the preacher Roy Laferty (Harry Melling), who performs the song “Washed in Blood” with his friend and cousin Theodore (Pokey LaFarge).

“Randall Poster, the film’s producer and music supervisor, and I worked tirelessly on the music in the film,” director Antonio Campos tells Rolling Stone. “A gospel track like the Stanley Brothers ‘Little Bessie,’ country classics like ‘Wings of a Dove’ by Ferlin Husky, or pop tracks like ‘Young Love’ by Sonny James not only set the mood but define our characters and set us in a specific place and time. In the case of Pokey LaFarge and Harry Melling’s performance of ‘Washed in the Blood,’ the music lifts the spirits of not only the congregants of the small church but also the audience and gives us a moment of respite from the madness. Interwoven with Saunder Juriaans and Danny Bensi’s haunting score, the soundtrack from Abkco is a sonic journey through the world of The Devil All the Time.”

Pokey LaFarge was asked by Poster to act in the film after they first worked together on the music for Boardwalk Empire. “Working with [Poster] is always a pleasure,” LaFarge says. “He lets the artist be the artist and tries to capture it. The engineer he works with, Stewart Lerman, is a gem as well. Recording the tunes for the film was special for me as bluegrass and mountain music were what I cut my teeth on when I first started playing music. It was full circle. Glad I had such a strong background in those styles or else I may not have been so prepared to lay down what he was looking for.”

“Music helps define these characters and an urgent reality,” Poster says. “In this film, music is an effective counterpoint to some of the more suspenseful moments. I love country music and am always excited to ‘step on the gravel road’ and use it when I can. I’m glad Pokey got the part and his ‘Banks of the Ohio’ reinforces the film’s geography. We thought about how to use music to help people understand that we are traveling from 1946 to 1965 in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s self-conscious and doesn’t jump out at the viewer. Music is an organic part of the film, used to set time and place and to capture the spiritual ground of it.”

The Devil All the Time also stars Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Douglas Hodge and Donald Ray Pollock, who wrote the novel which the film is based on and who serves as the film’s narrator. The film is available to stream now on Netflix, and the official The Devil All the Time soundtrack will be released on Friday, September 18th

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