Poster for Late Night with the Devil. It features talk show Jack Delroy with his head replaced by a column of fire.Late Night with The Devil
Directors/Writers: Colin and Cameron Cairnes
Starring: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Fayssal Bazzi, Ian Bliss, Ingrid Torelli
Distributor: IFC Midnight/Shudder

The decade is the 1970s and talk show host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) is a desperate man. He’s not been the same since his wife died a year ago. Once touted as a potential rival of Johnny Carson and “The Tonight Show”, his talk show “Night Owls with Jack Delroy” now lags far behind in the ratings. It’s sweeps week and he needs something to pull ahead. And thus, the stage is set for Late Night with the Devil, a film about a desperate man willing to do anything to stay relevant.

At its core, Late Night with the Devil is a found footage film. It presents the narrative as the master tape of the 1977 Halloween broadcast of talk show “Night Owls With Jack Delroy”. Occasionally, we get black and white sequences depicting conversations in between commercial breaks. It’s a clever use of the found footage conceit, and one of the best examples of it in a long time.

The opening narration, provided by an uncredited Michael Ironside, lets us know the history of the show and its host Jack Delroy. Delroy seems to be a man on the rise only to constantly hit glass ceilings. The narration only hints at some horrifying event to happen on his Halloween 1977 episode.

Jack Delroy (played by David Dastmalchian) stands in shadows in front of an audience.
IFC Midnight/Shudder

The film is also a great one-location horror story. A lot of films on a limited budget rarely hide the fact they take place in a single location (especially in the case of haunted house movies). Late Night With the Devil solves that problem by setting it in a TV studio. All of the action happens on set. As such, viewers watching the film become a part of the audience that’s in the studio with Jack.

Australian brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes meticulously recreate this 1970s era of television. The set for Night Owls looks inspired by the talk shows of that era, such as the Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas shows. There’s plenty of orange and bad haircuts. The show looks like it was shot on video, and to great effect.

It should be noted that some controversy has erupted over the use of AI art to create some of the interstitials for the show. It’s an egregious choice. The filmmakers and the production design team clearly understand the time period of the film. How much more would it have cost to pay someone to create that art? 

Jack Delroy (played by David Dastmalchian) leans on a studio camera pondering his life choices.
IFC Midnight/Shudder

Regardless of that boneheaded choice, the strength of the film doesn’t lie simply in the production design. This is a rare lead role for David Dastmalchian, a reliable character actor who regularly appears in genre fare. He’s made his presence known in films like Dune, The Suicide Squad, and The Last Voyage of the Demeter. His haunted turn in last year’s The Boogeyman was only about five minutes but was the high point of that film. 

But Late Night with the Devil is entirely his show. His performance as Jack Delroy slowly peels back layers as the film progresses. At the beginning, he is a man of confidence and charm. He conducts interviews with empathy and wit on camera. Delroy is the consummate entertainer and ring leader of this late night circus. When he reaches the end, he is a man whose hollowness and desperation is laid bare. 

Dastmalchian is a skilled enough performer to show peeks in Delroy’s façade throughout. Delroy understands what makes “great television,” or at least knows what will glue people to their sets. Dastmalchian makes Delroy a man who ultimately stands for nothing. He has no scruples on what he can put on TV, a man ready to do anything to get to the top. He’s someone willing to compromise anything for that taste of success.

Doctor June Ross-Mitchell (played by Laura Gordon) talks to a possessed Lily (played by Ingrid Torrelli) in low studio lighting
IFC Midnight/Shudder

He’s so willing to grab the brass ring, he invites a young woman possibly possessed by a demon on his show. Using the structure of a talk show, the Cairnes Brothers really build up the suspense and terror of what’s to come. Various production snafus and glitches occur throughout the night. The first guest gets ill and vomits violently.

The doctor (Laura Gordon) bringing on the possessed girl constantly warns him this is a bad idea. His second guest, former magician and skeptic Carmichael Haig (Ian Bliss who almost steals the movie) soothes his conscience. There’s no such thing as demons and the paranormal. Yet, Delroy never escapes the feeling his payment is due.

Ingrid Torelli, who plays Lily the victim of possession, belongs in the creepy kids hall of fame. She perfects the dead stare into the camera, aware of its location at all times. Her performance hints that Lily’s demon craves an audience, and that it’ll do anything to keep audiences from touching that dial.

Jack Delroy (played by David Dastmalchian) slowly is losing his mind. Behind him is a large black and white spiral.
IFC Midnight/Shudder

At the end, the film really pulls out all of the stops. Late Night with the Devil’s final scenes are terrifying and mind-melting. The Cairnes pull the rug out not just for the characters in the film but the audience as well. They constructed the film in a way where the audience is a part of the story’s fabric. We witness the terror as if we are there in the studio, not merely in a movie theater or on a couch. As another film once stated, everyone’s entitled to one good scare on Halloween.

Late Night With the Devil is currently in theaters. It will come to streaming on Shudder on April 19th.


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