Directed by: Antonio Campos
Written by: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos
Produced by: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, Randall Poster, Max Born
Cast Members: Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson
Released date: September 11, 2020 (USA)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Duration: 2h 18min
Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.
COMPLETE FULL SYNOPSIS:
During World War II, while serving in the Solomon Islands, U.S. Marine Willard Russell finds Gunnery Sergeant Miller Jones skinned and crucified by Japanese soldiers. Willard ends Jones’s agony by shooting him behind the ear. This religious tableau will haunt Willard for the rest of his life. After the war, on his way home to Coal Creek, West Virginia, Willard passes through Meade, Ohio, where he meets Charlotte, a waitress at a diner and a photographer named Carl Henderson. Willard and Charlotte marry and move to Knockemstiff, Ohio, where they have a son who they name Arvin.
In 1950, Helen Hatton marries Roy Laferty, a bizarre albeit charismatic evangelical preacher who pours venomous spiders over his head while giving sermons to demonstrate his faith in God. They have a daughter who they name Lenora. During a sermon, Roy is bitten by a spider on his face and has a severe allergic reaction that affects his grip on reality. Roy comes to believe that he has the ability to resurrect the dead. He takes Helen out in the woods and stabs her in the neck with a screwdriver before trying and failing to resurrect her. He hitchhikes and is picked up by a married couple, Carl Henderson and his wife Sandy. The pair are revealed to be serial killers and their ritual involves picking up male hitchhikers, encouraging them to have sex with Sandy while Carl takes photographs, and then murders them. Roy refuses to have sex with Sandy, and Carl shoots and kills him.
In 1957, Charlotte is diagnosed with cancer. Willard believes he can influence God with fervent prayer to remove cancer from his wife’s body. He prays to God and sacrifices Arvin’s dog, kneeling before a rustic cross he had erected in the woods behind his house. Nevertheless, Charlotte dies and Willard commits suicide. Arvin, now orphaned, goes to live with his grandmother Emma, where he meets Lenora, who becomes his adopted “stepsister”.
In 1965, Arvin is given his father’s Luger pistol as a birthday present. He is fiercely protective of Lenora who is bullied by some local boys, prompting Arvin to attack and beat them all mercilessly. Lenora grows close to the new, narcissistic Reverend Preston Teagarden. Preston seduces and rapes Lenora and she becomes pregnant. When she informs Preston, he denies her. Not wanting to bring shame to her family, Lenora plans to take her own life by hanging herself. At the last second, she decides not to go through with suicide, but as she attempts to undo the noose, she slips off her support and dies. After the autopsy, Arvin is told that she was pregnant and suspects that Preston was the father. He follows Preston and sees him seduce and rape another underage girl.
At the church, Arvin confronts Preston about Lenora and shoots and kills him with the Luger before fleeing. Arvin hitchhikes and is picked up by Carl and Sandy. Arvin notices that Carl is carrying a gun, and as Carl begins the pair’s ritual, Arvin shoots and kills both Carl and Sandy in self-defense. In the car’s glove compartment, Arvin finds a collection consisting of several rolls of film. Sandy’s brother, Sheriff Lee Bodecker, learns about Sandy’s murder, and to protect himself and his coming reelection, goes to Carl and Sandy’s apartment where he finds and destroys Carl’s photo collection.
Arvin travels to Meade to visit his childhood home. Lee learns that Arvin murdered Preston, tracks him to Meade, and, armed with a shotgun, confronts Arvin in the woods at Willard’s rustic cross. A shootout ensues and Arvin mortally wounds Lee with his father’s Luger. Before Lee dies, Arvin shows Lee the picture of Sandy with Roy’s dead body. Arvin leaves the photo and rolls of film so evidence of Carl and Sandy’s serial killing spree can be revealed.
Arvin hitchhikes and is picked up by a hippie. As he rides in the passenger seat, the exhausted Arvin struggles to stay awake. He daydreams and contemplates his future as possibly a husband or serving in the Vietnam War.