LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL is a 70's throwback anchored by great performances

March 28, 2024

“Now here’s Mister Midnight…Jack Delroy!”

LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL, the unnerving and captivating directorial debut from Australian Cairnes brothers Colin and Cameron, released last weekend from IFC Films and Shudder acting as a refreshing example of how exciting “new horror” can be and also doubling as a pitch-perfect display of lead David Dastmalchian’s talents.

Presented as a documentary, LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL investigates the unexplained tragedy of a late-1970’s talkshow called “Night Owls with Jack Delroy” which aired its final horrific episode on Halloween night 1977.

Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian) is a variety talk-show host whose best years seem to be behind him, eternally falling behind Johnny Carson and the other network titans.

In a last-ditch effort to boost ratings during “sweeps week” (an infamous week where networks throw everything at the wall to boost advertisements and determine which shows receive the axe or the renewal) Delory attempts to make his Halloween show the biggest yet…

…by bringing on a psychic (Fayssal Bazzi), a magician-turned-skeptic (Ian Bliss), and a parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) along with her patient, a girl seemingly possessed by the devil, Lilly, played by newcomer Ingrid Torelli.

The film received a limited theatrical release in select theaters, and I was lucky enough to snag tickets to a packed late-night showing at Stillwater’s AMC on Monday night. Needless to say, myself and the crowd were shocked, grossed out, and…moved?

Being a late-70’s talkshow, LATE NIGHT is presented to us in a 4:3 aspect ratio, making it look like you are watching an old episode of television, going a long way into making this seem like some lost creepy YouTube documentary you’d discover that would keep you up at night.

Along with the 4:3 ratio that the Cairnes Brothers chose is a definite intentionality to present this as 70’s as possible down to the low-budget (but effective) computer effects and make-up. Some may laugh at this in a 2024 lens, but others will no doubt appreciate it’s adherence to the period.

While LAT NIGHT has all the makings and trappings of being “just another exorcism movie” (months after the critically-derided EXORCIST BELIEVER), LATE NIGHT’s presentation and performances keep this anchored in a sort of believability, even after we’ve seen things go off the proverbial rails.

Dastmalchian’s Jack Delroy is the kind of wholesome late-personality you could see yourself tuning into night after night, and for a character actor that has stolen scenes in films like BLADE RUNNER 2049, DUNE: PART ONE, THE SUICIDE SQUAD, and last year’s THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER this being his “leading” movie does wonders for just how great he really is.

He’s not alone, though. Everyone does such a fantastic job here, none more-so than Ingrid Torelli’s possessed Lilly who acts enough with her eyes to make you squirm in your seat when she stares directly into the studio cameras.

Ultimately, LATE NIGHT is a Faustian tale with a style that shows these new filmmakers are hungry, fresh, voices on the horror scene with great things ahead of them.

I would hesitate to call LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL a “scary” movie, but it is a good movie that cements itself as an instant Halloween-marathon classic.

If you miss it in theaters, LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL will be streaming on Shudder next month.