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Late Night With The Devil

Lights! Camera! Possession? Late Night with the Devil

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Believe it or not, television talk shows used to be a “must see” form of media long before the days of streaming. The times of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch and Oprah giving everyone a car may be mostly in the past, but the cultural resonance of these moments and programs still persist. Such is the case with the recent and tantalizing offering that is Late Night with the Devil directed by Colin and Cameron Cairnes. Premiering at South by Southwest nearly over a year ago, Late Night thankfully graced the Frida’s screen just recently and treated audiences to what is billed as a “found footage” horror film detailing a fateful Halloween night in 1977 during a live broadcast of a fictitious talk show titled Night Owls with Jack Delroy.

Starring an underrated yet breakout lead actor in David Dastmalchain, Late Night with the Devil is the story of Jack Delroy, a fictional talk show host whose primary goal is to challenge and eventually surpass the king of late night: Johnny Carson. However, Jack Delroy’s story comes with a hefty load of baggage. For starters, his rumored affiliation with a woodland cult led the audience to view with trepidation and speculation. Unfortunately, Jack loses his wife to a battle with cancer, and just like a magic trick: poof! He’s gone from the public eye. After his return, Jack’s show stumbles in the ratings columns, so what’s the best way to spark interest? An occult-themed episode of the show! What takes place next is a series of psychics, magicians, but most importantly, an appearance from a parapsychologist and her patient, Lilly, who is harboring something nefarious deep inside her, one that stuns and shocks the audience in outstanding and harrowing ways.

If David Cronenberg and David Letterman ever collaborated on a film, this would be it. Late Night provides all the makings of a classic, yet a few glaring issues propose a roadblock for such prestige. A lackluster exposition into the mythology of Jack’s secretive background, a half-baked portrayal of possession, and the omission of many character relationships stand out. However, don’t get me wrong, I still found the film to be a spooky and fun time. Will we be talking about this movie in years to come? Probably not, but the current buzzworthy status begs for at least one viewing if you can seek the film out.

Late Night With The DevilWhat works for the film is its use of seemingly real-time filming. While not a “found footage” film, as described many times within the film’s marketing, the broadcast feels like we’re tuning into an episode of Jimmy Kimmel gone awry… or Johnny Carson, for that matter. The concern and fright from the late-night host and crew becomes palpable. It’s as if we’re scaling the Mt. Everest of anxiety and fright. We could fall down the edge at any time, yet we’re still locked in until the very end. Effective use of body horror is successfully utilized to present one of the film’s most shocking scenes: a nice change of pace from the slow-burn psychological horror leading up to the moment. I don’t want to give too much away, but Late Night’s conclusion is satisfactory in its execution and direction. Borderline head-scratching, the ambiguity of it all adds the overall mystique of the final product.

Certainly one of the year’s more entertaining viewings so far, Late Night with the Devil packs in the elements of nostalgia and traditional horror tropes that truly has something for everyone (kind of). Heck, I even watched it alongside someone 70 years of age and they were complimentary of everything we had just seen. David Dastmalchian’s performance is understated but perfectly compliments the pacing and visual components of the film. On-air footage is in color, but off the air is black and white, further pushing the thematic idea of reality versus fiction. We will never have a definitive answer of what exactly what down that fateful Halloween night, but we can certainly speculate. An inspired concept, the end result is a refined product that feels like a cool breeze in the world of today’s horror cinema. And with that being said, ladies and gentlemen, may you all have a good night!

Late Night with the Devil screens through Thursday, May 2nd.
Tuesday, April 30th – 3pm, 5:15pm
Wednesday, May 1st – 5:30pm
Thursday, May 2nd – 5:30pm
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