REVIEW: Late Night with the Devil

Late Night with the Devil

A year on from its debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival, with accolades including a rapturous review from horror maestro Stephen King, Late Night with the Devil finally arrives on the public stage.

A found-footage-style horror film with a twist, Late Night with the Devil presents itself as a recently rediscovered episode of a fictional second-tier talk show from the 1970s.

Its Halloween Night, sweeps week, 1977. “Night Owls with Jack Delroy” is struggling in the ratings, courting controversy through cheap thrills and tawdry sensationalism to try to claw back its viewership. Its titular host (David Dastmalchian), once viewed as a rival to late-night king Johnny Carson, is willing to exploit anything, even personal tragedy, to hold on to his contract But his play for ratings in the spooky season is to have dire, unexpected consequences.

Written and directed by Colin and Cameron Cairnes, Late Night with the Devil makes expert use of the talk-show format with a succession of guests — wild-eyed, lamé-shirted celebrity psychic Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), arrogant, Machiavellian magician-turned-skeptic Carmichael (Ian Bliss) — lending itself to the slow build of dread and expectation. The last guest of the evening, we know, is to be parapsychologist Dr June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her career-making patient, the demonically-possessed survivor of a Satanic mass suicide, Lily (Ingrid Torelli, able to go from smug innocence to gimlet-eyed malevolence in an instant).

Cheesy jokes, delivered with a knowing wink, are subverted by growing terror. Think Ghostwatch meets The Exorcist supplemented with a groovy lounge aesthetic – earth-colour rainbows abound; authentically and evocatively lensed by cinematographer Matthew Temple with a suitably atmospheric score courtesy of Glenn Richards.

However, the hermetically-sealed, real-time nature of the premise ultimately proves a limitation that Late Night with the Devil can’t quite reconcile with its wider ambitions; descending into diabolic delirium that, though entertaining, is never quite dramatically satisfying. Datmalchian remains compelling throughout; perfectly capturing the slickness, smarm, and sincerity of the engaging media personality while hinting at the sweaty-handed desperation that lies just below the surface.

If not quite appointment viewing, Late Night with the Devil is well worth tuning in for.

Late Night with the Devil is playing in UK cinemas from March 22nd, 2024, and will make its streaming debut on Shudder later in the year

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs. Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape. Co-host of The Movie RobCast podcast (formerly Electric Shadows) and member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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