Star Rating:

Late Night With The Devil

Director: Colin and Cameron Cairnes

Actors: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon

Release Date: Friday 22nd March 2024

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 93 minutes

Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) is the host of 'Night Owls', a late-night talk show that is in direct competition with Johnny Carson for supremacy over the airwaves in '70s New York. Desperate to keep his show and bump his ratings, Delroy hosts a Halloween special with a twist - he invites on a former magician turned skeptic (Ian Bliss), a psychic (Fayssal Bazzi) and a parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) who is treating the sole survivor (Ingrid Torelli) of a Satanic mass suicide. Through footage shot on the night and behind the scenes, the episode quickly spins out of control and turns into a nightmare caught on live television...

Though it's had dalliances with sci-fi and comedy, found footage as a concept has always had a comfortable home in horror. The reason is that in order for horror to be effective, we have to be able to entertain the possibility that it could be real, or at least seem real. In 'Late Night With The Devil', the movie kicks off with a dour narration from the gravelly tones of Michael Ironside as he lays out the familiar horrors of '70s America - racial injustice, the Vietnam War, the decay of social fabric, and in the middle of all this, television.

In the same way that 'Network' took a dim view of television as an endless harvesting of eyes and souls, 'Late Night With The Devil' goes a step further and literally turns it into a black mass of consumerism and terror. David Dastmalchian's smarmy and glib late-night host is able to book-end each of the show's segments with a word from sponsors that previously described Satanic rituals and horrors beyond imagination. As he dives into the backstage, he's inhaling cigarettes and gleefully counting the ratings as they come in. It's broad strokes, sure, but 'Late Night With The Devil' is set in a time when television was primitive and dressed up in supposed intellectualism.

The script and direction by siblings Colin and Cameron Cairnes is kept tight and spins up a yarn about David Dastmalchian's character that is sometimes unwieldy, but feels right for the era. There's a subplot about conspiracies and secret fraternal orders that smacks of '70s moral panics and sensationalism, not to mention the notion of live television events capturing plenty of real-life horrors along with imagined ones. The use of practical effects is stylish and the grainy VHS look to most of the movie just adds to the sense of verisimilitude. Though some of the acting may go a little hammy in places, and there is a kind of shagginess to the whole thing, 'Late Night With The Devil' is able to summon a smart and satisfying horror satire worth your time.