Mockumentary-style found footage horror meets cheesy late-night talk show realness in subversive horror flick Late Night With the Devil from writer/director duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes. In 1970s America, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson reigned supreme over all other shows of its ilk. According to the introduction here, Night Owls with Jack Delroy, another program that focused on interviews, music, and sketch comedy, was in constant competition with Carson over the ratings. Host Delroy (David Dastmalchian) and his wacky sweeps-week ratings ploy becomes the stuff of legend in this entertaining and at times genuinely chilling genre flick.
A Texas Chainsaw-style narration gives us an abbreviated look back on Delroy’s life before getting to the actual setup of the night from hell. In 1972, Delroy inked a major five-year deal with the television network as Night Owls saw success and even Emmy nominations! Delroy’s loving wife, Madeleine (Georgina Haig), remained faithfully by his side before sadly succumbing to terminal lung cancer despite curiously being a non-smoker. This narrator is careful to point out the oddities as they pass by fleetingly, their importance only becoming clearer as the film progresses. These include but are not limited to mysterious cults, mounting nominations without a single win, and perhaps strangest of all, the manner in which Deroy returns to work shortly after the tragedy of his wife’s passing.
Going into Halloween night of 1977, Delroy and the network need a major hit. The narrator promises to show the “master tape” of what went to air that night, as well as exclusive behind the scenes never-before-seen moments that are sure to add to the experience. I was already on board just from the style of Late Night with the Devil; convincingly emulating a talk show down to the most minute details is no easy task. Halfway into the film, I almost forgot Delroy’s program was faux rather than real. By going out of their way to maintain the authenticity of late-night programming, the team behind the project cements their status as writers/directors to watch. When the slow-burn horrors finally do arrive, they are made all the scarier thanks to the convincing nature of this immaculate stage setting.
What better way to pull in ratings than by doubling down on the spooky nature of the Halloween season? Medium/spiritualist Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) is Delroy’s first guest, who attempts to channel his powers to do readings on the studio audience. The eerie vibes are already becoming present during his session, and bleed over into the second guest. A complete cynic and certified skeptic to test the validity of supernatural phenomena, Car (Ian Bliss) is the worst, most annoying character in the movie simply by design. I kept waiting for him to get his comeuppance as he proceeds to shoot down every claim.
The star of the show is a conversation with author June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her alleged demon-possessed young girl, Lilly (Ingrid Torelli). June’s book Conversations with the Devil marks her appearance as one to watch out for when teased early on. The duo finally arrive on the Night Owls set, and they do not disappoint. As the weird and unexplainable continue to occur, Delroy insists they attempt an on-air summoning despite the clear protests of June. Take a guess as to what happens next!
Late Night with the Devil is at its best in a bonkers finale that spirals out of control, featuring eye-popping practical effects and moments of genuine horror. While the ending ends up a little drawn out, it remains effective down to the very last creepy frame. Wherever it eventually finds a streamer, Late Night with the Devil will remain permanently at peace as it haunts from the comfort of home.
Late Night With The Devil screened at 2023’s Overlook Film Festival.
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