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Late Night With the Devil

SXSW 2023 REVIEW! A struggling late-next talk-show host goes to drastic measures for ratings in Colin and Cameron Cairnes’ horror feature, Late Night with the Devil.

It’s October 31, 1977, and Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) is a syndicated talk show host whose show is on the verge of cancellation unless he can impress sponsors during Sweeps Week. Up to this point, Jack has not even come close to toppling the late-night king, Johnny Carson. As the years pass, Delroy resorts to cheap stunts, aggressive treatment of his staff, joining a woodland cult, and exploiting the death of his wife, Madeleine (Madeleine).

Late Night with the Devil presents the recently discovered final episode of Jack Delroy’s show, Night Owls. Joined by his long-suffering co-host Gus (Rhys Auteri), tonight’s special Halloween show features spirit medium Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), professional skeptic Carmichael Hunt (Ian Bliss), paranormal psychiatric June Ross-Mitchell as well as the subject of her book, Conversations with the Devil, former child cult survivor Lilly D’Abo (Ingrid Torelli).

To reveal much more of the plot lands us squarely into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, when the “formerly” demon-possessed Lily is encouraged to show her host on live television, things go horribly wrong…horribly.

Late Night with the Devil is simply a terrifying thrill ride with David Dastmalchian as its perfect host. The film is meant to give us the feel of The Tonight Show during the 70s with black and white footage of the backstage shenanigans during the break. The Cairnes brothers do an incredible job of making the television show feel as authentic as possible, from the feel of old videotape to the gaudy 70s Michael Douglas set design.

“…Delroy resorts to cheap stunts, aggressive treatment of his staff, joining a woodland cult, and exploiting the death of his wife…”

At first glance, I don’t know if you’d think David Dastmalchian could play a TV host with his unique personality, but for this horrific story, he’s absolutely perfect in the role. There’s so much dimension to Jack Delroy as the television personality desperate to stay in the public spotlight who makes one compromising and dangerous choice after the other for rating points.

Dastmalchian is also aided by an incredibly elaborate script that wastes nothing to tell this story. It’s more than just a demon-possessed girl unleashing her “potential.” The role of Ian Bliss as the “Amazing Randi”-like skeptic provides the perfect counter-balance to what Delroy’s audience is seeing, along with a personal twist in Delroy’s relationship with Dr. Ross. Though the story seems a bit predictable, it isn’t. Once the s**t hits the fan, we’re left on our own to figure out what’s happening next.

The Cairnes wisely choose present as authentic a television show as possible, which may dampen the intensity of the scares, but the film is still just plain fun to watch. The effects are wonderful, with the vast majority of them being practical. Let’s be honest. This film leans on fun over terror. The effects may not be exorcist levels but fun nonetheless.

I wish I could describe more of this story to you, but you must find a way to see Late Night with the Devil with as little knowledge as possible. There’s fun in experiencing this film for the first time.

Late Night with the Devil screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival.




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