'Late Night with the Devil' is Delightfully Gruesome and Original

'Late Night with the Devil' is Delightfully Gruesome and Original

- By Nicolas Delgadillo

David Dastmalchian stars as the host of a 70s talk show that goes horribly wrong one Halloween night.

A combination of found footage and possession horror, old school television programming, late-night variety talk shows, and 70s exploitation flicks, Late Night with the Devil wears all its influences on its sleeve. The magic trick is how directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes are able to concisely mix all of that into something that feels effortlessly original and wildly unpredictable.

Set on Halloween night of 1977, Late Night with the Devil documents the eventful final episode of the popular show “Night Owls with Jack Delroy”. Forever second in ratings behind Johnny Carson, Jack (David Dastmalchian) wants the show to hit number one more than anything, and that night’s special occult-themed taping may just be his last chance. 

With the assistance of his friend and showbiz partner Gus (Rhys Auteri), Jack has plans to bring a few guests out to shock both the studio audience and his fans watching at home. First up is Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), a psychic who can seemingly communicate with the dead. So long as he doesn’t try and chat up Jack’s recently deceased wife Madeleine (Georgina Haig), he has the potential to be a crowd-pleasing act. 

Jack has also brought in Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), a haughty professional magician who doubles as a skeptic, debunking any and all scam artists who claim to have actual supernatural abilities. The way he butts heads with Christou makes for some easy entertainment, but it’s the final pair of guests that Jack has really put all of his faith towards.

Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon), accompanied by a girl named Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), has come on the show to discuss and demonstrate her particular field of work in parapsychology. Lilly is a special case - rescued from a Satanic cult when she was younger and host to an apparent demon within her small body. But Jack and company may have bitten off more than they can chew with these two, as things start to go horrifyingly wrong in the studio that fateful Halloween night.

The cast is wonderful. Each actor brings a distinct life to characters that could’ve easily come across as caricatures, and it’s their performances that truly see Late Night with the Devil through. Dastmalchian has been long overdue for a juicy and layered lead role like Jack, and he knocks it out of the park. What he brings to the screen near the film’s end is transcendent; where a single look or yell of fright is able to burn its way into your brain for what’ll likely be the remainder of the year.

The film also boasts some rather impressive effects throughout its various scares, everything from practical puppets to weird glitchy broadcast effects to grotesque and gory makeup. The team makes the very most out of the film’s single location, transforming the slick “Night Owls” set into Jack’s personal purgatory by its end. Much like the plot that unfolds throughout the movie, the various nightmares that fill the screen feel like an unpredictable rollercoaster.

Late Night with the Devil gets a lot right with its story, characters, and horror movie scares. So it makes it all the more disappointing that it can’t quite seem to commit to its found footage concept. The film opens by presenting itself as a documentary, voiceover narration and all, covering the night’s events through the unearthed live broadcast and behind-the-scenes footage. But it doesn’t take long at all for the camera to just start going wherever and doing whatever it wants, abandoning its own stylistic angle for a more traditional narrative and structure. 

By the time you’re watching stuff that may only be happening inside of a character’s head, the documentary idea is far in the rearview. It’s not exactly a dealbreaker since the film’s strengths are still able to shine, but finding a way to make the found footage concept work (or not bothering with it from the start) could’ve elevated it to something far greater. 

Late Night with the Devil conjures up memorable frights and characters within its brisk 93 minute runtime, solidifying Dastmalchian as a star and establishing the Cairnes’ as a directing duo worth keeping an eye on. Despite its flaws, it’s a solidly entertaining and original horror film that’s sure to amass its own devoted fanbase with time.

‘Late Night with the Devil’ is now playing in theaters and will stream exclusively on Shudder on April 19th.

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