Review – Late Night with the Devil (2024)

Late Night with the Devil sees the excellent David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy, a 1970s host of the late night chat show, Night Owls. Desperate to gain viewers back after a tragedy in his personal life, Jack themes his latest episode around occultism, however, the broadcast goes horribly wrong when a possessed guest unleashes a world of hell. 

The directing duo, Colin and Cameron Cairnes delivers a menacing and mischievous feast brimming with hocus pocus trickery that constantly deceives and takes the viewer on a  rollercoaster of havoc as we see a talk show spectacle turn into a cinematic rendition of satanic-panic-like mayhem. Late Night with the Devil’s wacky, yet utterly malicious narrative takes shape due to its clever filmic development; the film immerses itself into its vintage layout, with the frame taking on a surprising found footage arrangement, but not how one would generally expect it to. In other words, instead of a small handheld camera capturing POV’s, the found footage lens is of a ‘lost tape’ that has been discovered by a group of current documentary filmmakers. It’s a unique breaking of found footage codes, shaking colloquial storytelling and providing a level of exciting mystery. 

Shadowing the film’s fresh take on the diegetic lens is its meta-esque feel, thanks to the late night lost tape appearing as a live broadcast. Immediately, bells ring to the likes of Ghostwatch (1992), WNUF Halloween Special (2013) and Haunted Ulster Live (2023) all of which utilise an almost forbidden feel, watching realist-coded footage gone wrong. Late Night with the Devil joins these witty displays of interactive filmmaking that have created an intriguing and entertaining cinematic discussion surrounding participatory viewership.

Whilst it is certain to say that presenting the moving image as an unplanned, charged, live piece aids in the fright factor and immediacy of it all, what is not to be underestimated is how the film’s performances equally contribute to the overwhelming impact of it all. Dastmalchian shines on screen, taking the already fantastically written character and making the role come to life with his portrayal of a broken man attempting to redeem some form of oomph back into his career, only for it to all come crashing down in a great calamity. Further to this is the film’s ability to conjure a scare or two. It is also worth mentioning how the film does not solely rely on brief and rapid ineffective jumpscares to entice a shriek, instead, the scenes are crafted in a way that allows for slowburn reveals that act to chill rather than shout ‘boo!’. 

Since the film’s premiere at 2023’s South by Southwest Film Festival, reviewers have raved about Late Night with the Devil, commending its distinctive atmosphere and novel style, yet there has been some commentary regarding its use of CGI. Despite the beloved (and deserved) reputation of practical effects, the use of computer-generated imagery is not the devil, it can in fact be an effective tool. However, there are some pretty obvious, and poor uses of it within Late Night with the Devil, particularly involving scenes featuring lightning, which feels quite out of place and inauthentic when compared to the rest of the film’s stylisation. 

In short, Late Night with the Devil oozes appeal, whether that be through its enthusiastic medium that the exciting story is told, or through its riveting storyline that unfolds, convulses, twists and turns until it reaches an almighty, and showstopping revelation – whichever way, Late Night with the Devil is a must-see horror.

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