Late Night with the Devil Poster

Late Night with the Devil (2023) Review

Late Night With the Devil, the latest film from Cameron and Colin Cairnes, the team who made 100 Bloody Acres and Scare Campaign, opens with scenes of violence caught in the lens of the TV camera. As we watch, Michael Ironside (The Fight Machine, Scanners) tells us about America in the 1970s, and then segues into the career of radio man turned late night TV host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, Dune).

His show, the syndicated Night Owls, has run a close second to Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, but never managed to catch up to it in the ratings wars. And since the death of Jack’s wife Madeline (Georgina Haig, Childhood’s End, Road Kill) his life and his ratings, seem to be in free fall. With sweeps week kicking off on Halloween Eve and his career on the line, he’s put together a list of guests that he hopes will have everyone talking about him in the morning. Unfortunately for him and his guests, that’s just what happens.

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At first glance, Late Night with the Devil would seem to be a descendent of the BBC’s infamous Ghostwatch or the more recent Haunted Ulster Live. But that was presented as happening live as the viewer watched. This is more like a found footage film, a recently discovered master tape of a show that was broadcast live to air in 1977 and was thought to have been lost.

And what a show it was, opening with Christou (Fayssal Bazzi, Black Site, We’re Not Here to Fuck Spiders) a psychic who claims to have messages from audiences member’s departed loved ones. He’s joined by Carmichael Haig (Ian Bliss, Big Words, Small Stories, The Matrix Revolutions) a former magician turned James Randi style professional skeptic.

The interplay between these three, the audience and Jack’s sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri, A Good Deed) is actually quite funny up until, as they head into a commercial break, Christou gets a message that takes a physical toll on him and seems to strike a nerve in Jack, shaking his composure and drawing into conflict with Carmichael.

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This becomes Late Night with the Devil’s turning point, and with the arrival of parapsychologist Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon, Alien Strain, Saw V) and the subject of her latest book a young girl, Lilly D’Abo (Ingrid Torelli, Force of Nature: The Dry 2, Five Bedrooms), who was the sole survivor of a Satanic cult suicide and claims to still be possessed by the demon they worshipped.

It’s probably no surprise that he plans on manifesting the demon, which Lilly refers to as Mr. Wiggles, on live TV. Or that things don’t go the way he planned. What is a surprise is just how true to its setting the script stays while deftly moving from the light first act to an acrimonious and increasingly creepy middle and then the final act where all hell breaks loose live in the studio.

Simultaneously playing out as a horror film, a cautionary tale about ego and ambition as well as a satire of the television business all wrapped up in a blanket of nostalgia, Late Night with the Devil is a surprisingly deep film. The Cairnes’ get a lot of milage out of the contrast between what goes on in front of the cameras and what we see backstage during commercials breaks, especially the difference between people’s viewer friendly faces, their real personalities and the unravelling of Jack’s personality as the show progresses.

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From a technical standpoint, Late Night with the Devil is just as good. The set feels like it was imported from the late 70s. Getting the look right was crucial to the film’s success, and the filmmakers nailed it right down to the leisure suits. The film’s effect, while not as plentiful as you might expect, are well done with the exception of some obvious CGI vomit.

The result is a film that has something to say, but doesn’t lose sight of the need to deliver the scares and entertainment its audience tuned in for. Late Night with the Devil succeeds across the board and should end up on a lot of people’s Halloween playlists.

Late Night with the Devil will arrive in UK theatres on March 22nd via Vertigo Releasing. IFC will release it on the same date in the US.

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