‘Late Night with the Devil’ Review: Not So Terrifying, But Offers Goofy Demonic Fun

Kevin Taft reviews Late Night with the Devil, starring David Dastmalchian, which is not too serious, not too scary, but absolutely entertaining.
User Rating: 7.5

With the proliferation of possession movies, it’s hard to come up with a new twist on the well-worn genre. Even the legacy sequel to the defining possession film, The Exorcist, failed to do anything we hadn’t seen before.

So it’s a treat to talk about the new low-budget indie Late Night with the Devil from the brothers Cameron and Colin Cairnes, who wrote and directed the film together.

So what’s the twist, you might ask? ‘Late Night’ is a one-location film about Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), a late-night talk show host whose always-second-best late-night show, “Night Owls,” is having a bit of a problem with its ratings.

See Also: ‘Soft & Quiet’ Review: Disturbingly Well-Crafted

On the verge of having his show canceled, he attempts to do a shocking Halloween show for sweeps week in hopes of having it renewed. For that show, he’s scheduled a variety of hair-raising guests.

Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) is a flashy medium, Carmichael Haig (Ian Bliss) is a supernatural debunker, and June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) is a psi-psychologist. Her patient Lily (Ingrid Torelli) is the subject of her latest book, Conversations with the Devil, a true account of Lily’s ongoing possessions by a demonic spirit.

After a prologue of the state of the world in the ‘70s, the narrator announces that the footage we are about to see is the actual broadcast of that show, with behind-the-scenes footage sprinkled in between where the commercial breaks occurred. Allegedly, the show was so shocking that it only aired once.

Throughout the night, Jack – whose beloved wife recently died – playfully banters with his sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri) and goes back and forth with cynical debunker Carmichael. We get to see the medium at work, Carmichael’s explanations for how he thinks his feats were pulled off, and finally, a discussion with June and Lily.

But when Carmichael insists June show the audience how she can get the demon to possess Lily in order to speak with it,  things get blissfully out of control.

While the film takes a few beats to get going (we are anxious to get to the possession stuff), the Cairnes brothers thoughtfully build intrigue, with Jack’s guests and crew experiencing some unusual incidents written off as technical glitches or fakery. Carmichael’s disbelief in anything extraordinary annoys everyone, but the character does offer the questions the audience themselves might have.

The film builds as June and Lily enter the stage, creating chaos both inadvertently and on purpose. All of this culminates in a fiery end that might have some scratching their heads. The last few minutes do get a bit esoteric, and a more solid finish would have been welcomed, but it has a ’70s psychedelic feel that seems appropriate.

The Cairnes’ movie isn’t particularly scary, but it keeps your attention as it moves along at a zippy pace. The setting of the mid-70s, complete with a 4:3 aspect ratio to match how a television program from the 70s would look.

Dastmalchian is the perfect TV host, putting on the fake charm and terrible banter so common in the decade of bell-bottoms and “The Brady Bunch.” He has moments of smarm, as he aches to be renewed, and scenes of genuine compassion, such as when he interviews his ill wife – a popular actress. Jack, himself, goes between believing what he’s seeing and wondering if it’s all a ruse, and that confusion heightens our suspicion of what’s really going on.

The rest of the cast is good, albeit some of the characters are a bit over-the-top, which keeps the audience in the realm of “this is a movie” rather than being “genuine found footage.”

The most subtle is Gordon as June and Auteri as right-hand host Gus. Torelli, as the possessed girl, plays it a bit on the nose with her long stares at the camera and odd demeanor, but she certainly ramps it up in the best of ways during the possession sequences.

All in all, Late Night with the Devil is a big bag of goofy, horror fun – sort of like a demonic “Fright Night.” It’s not too serious, not too scary, but absolutely entertaining.

Late Night with the Devil opens in theaters on March 22, 2024, and will be available on Shudder starting April 19.

7.5
Good
Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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