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Movie Review: 'Late Night with the Devil'

A brilliant new entry in the horror genre, Late Night with the Devil crosses Lost Media and Horror iconography.

By Sean PatrickPublished 25 days ago 5 min read
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Late Night with the Devil (2024)

Directed by Colin Cairnes, Cameron Cairnes

Written by Colin Cairnes, Cameron Cairnes

Starring David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss

Release Date March 22nd, 2024

Published March 21st, 2024

Late Night with the Devil stars David Dastmalchian, forever an actor out of time, as 1970's talk show legend, Jack Delroy. In 1971, Jack Delroy left the world of morning radio for the chance to compete next to Johnny Carson in the realm of late night TV as the host of Night Owls with Jack Delroy. For a time, it appeared that Jack might just eclipse the King of Late Night, Carson, but by 1976, things were no longer going Jack's way. Jack's beloved wife, played by Georgina Haig, died of cancer, not long after he had her appear on Night Owls in an attempt to boost ratings.

After taking a month away to recover from the loss of his wife, Jack returned to the stage to try and salvage his show and his career. It's Halloween night and Jack has an idea that he hopes can get him back on top. Jack has booked a pair of guests with supposedly supernatural talents. Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) is a mentalist with a talent for speaking to the dead. He will demonstrate this talent on the show and then face off with a skeptic, a former magician turned debunker, Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss). Carmichael is based off of real life magician turned debunker, and 1970s celebrity, The Amazing Randi.

Christou may or may not be a charlatan, one that Carmichael can debunk with relative ease, but a greater challenge to the skeptic and the talk show host is booked next. Author and para-psychiatrist, Dr. June Ross Mitchell is bringing her patient, Lily (Ingrid Torrelli) on the show. Lily was the only survivor of a death cult that worshiped a Devil adjacent demon known as Abraxas. Dr. Ross-Mitchell has written a book about Lily's possession by a demon that Lily calls "Mr. Wriggles." On tonight's show, Dr. Ross-Mitchell is set to place Lily in a trance and bring the demon out of her in front of the world and prove that demonic possession is real.

What we know, and these characters do not, is that what we are seeing is recovered footage thought lost forever. The concept behind Late Night with the Devil is that this is footage of the most controversial live television broadcast in history, a test footage that was thought lost forever. The entirety of the story of Late Night with the Devil, aside from an opening prologue introducing us to the host, Jack Delroy and his backstory, is portrayed as a recovered recording directly from 1976 and being played back for the first time since it was broadcast. The look of the movie is a near perfect recreation of a 1970's television broadcast, right down to the grainy quality of the video indicative of a live to tape broadcast from nearly 50 years ago.

Written and directed by the duo of Colin and Cameron Cairnes, Late Night with the Devil is creepy, weird, kinetic and relentless. The style is high but so is the skillful presentation of scares. The recreation of a 70s talk show aesthetic may seem like a gimmick, and it is, but it only adds to the verisimilitude. You feel like you are watching a piece of Lost Media, a beloved niche in the online sphere. Lost media obsessives have dedicated themselves to recovering pieces of pop culture history and putting them online for the world to see. Some of these lost media pieces are creepy or disturbing and Late Night with the Devil does well to tap that desire to discover something that had seemingly been lost with purpose.

Late Night with the Devil is also just a really good horror movie. Headed up by David Dastmalchian, an actor who looks like he should have been a 1970s character actor, Late Night with the Devil is a period perfect recreation of the 1970s crossed with the familiar tropes of demonic possession based horror movies of any year. Dastmalchian effortlessly holds the center as an affable, funny, but obviously troubled host. He and young Ingrid Torelli as the supremely creepy little girl, Lily, are the standouts in a cast filled with terrific performances.

All the pieces of Late Night with the Devil are in place and then are elevated with style and skill by a duo of talented directors. The masterful control over the tone and pacing creates a horror atmosphere of rising anxiety and tension that ebbs and flows perfectly. As the noose tightens on Dastmalchian's secretive and corrupt fame seeking host, the film gains steam and never lets up leading to a third act filled with unpredictable thrills and scares. Late Night with the Devil is downright exhausting by the end but it is a feeling of catharsis that sets in, a feeling that after what we've seen, we've earned a rest.

The best horror movies feel this way. And while I may stop short of calling Late Night with the Devil an all time great horror movie, it has the DNA of an all timer. It's a movie that evokes memories of 70s horror that have stood the test of time. It's crossed with a modern feel that is evocative of the work of a modern master like Ari Aster. The film has a modern surrealism that brilliantly, perfectly coalesces with the 70s aesthetic of the story being told. The combination is combustible and leads to an explosive ending filled with shocks, surprises, and scares before coming to a satisfyingly odd conclusion that makes Late Night with the Devil a must-see.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge, or by leaving a one-time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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