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Late Night with the Devil

Updated: Apr 8

As clever a "concept" horror film as I've seen in decades, LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL pulls you in by the throat and holds you there, even if it can't quite nail a perfect landing.

The hook is brilliant, as opening narration by Michael Ironside (Robocop) introduces you to the 1970's, the cultural conflicts of the time and the desire of late night talk show host Jack Delroy to equal Johnny Carson in both ratings and fame.

A former radio host, Jack (David Dastmalchian) finds plenty of fame as a solid number two in the TV ratings, alongside his straight man sidekick Gus McConnell (Rhys Auteri).

Years pass, and while he and the show are consistent performers, they can't quite catch Carson.

Jack's world is rocked when his long time wife, Broadway star Madeline (Georgina Haig) is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

After her death, Jack finds himself in a tailspin personally and in the ratings.

His last ditch effort, perhaps for both causes, consumes his Halloween night 1977 episode. Our narrator shares that what we're about to see is the found footage of the full broadcast from that night, unedited, including behind the scenes footage during the commercial breaks.

I was almost giddy at the concept and the set up.

Wait, a Halloween episode that went horribly wrong that no one's seen in nearly 50 years? Get me the popcorn.

Jack's guests include a very popular psychic named Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), who connects members of the audience with messages from the dead. His sequence seems like fairly routine stuff, until....hey, NO spoilers here.

Jack's second guest on the holiday episode is Carmichael Haig, a former magician turned famed debunker of all things paranormal. He's got a $100,000 check in his pocket, ready to pay anyone that proves it's not all bullshit. Ian Bliss (The Matrix Reloaded) is almost unrecognizable as the man whose disbelief will be tested this All Hallows Eve. Keep that check handy, Haig.

Jack's big guest spot this night is saved for Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) who appears with teenage girl Lilly D'Abo (a terrific Ingrid Torelli) the possessed subject of the Doctor's new bestseller, "Conversations with the Devil".

The great part of the storytelling here is the constant uptick in the tension. First segment: "that took a wrong turn", second segment: "okay maybe this is all just hocus pocus", third segment: "let's do a live interview of the demon inside this girl on live television".

What could go wrong?

Well that's the absolute blast here, in just how cleverly just about everything goes askew, the hidden motivations and history behind it and where it's all going to lead.

Dastmalchian has always had a fascinating screen presence in films like 2021's "Suicide Squad" in which he played the Polka-Dot Man, "Dune Part One" in his role as Piter De Vries and as William Borden in "Oppenheimer".

He's excellent throughout, playing a far more conventional, charming role than he has in the past. You can see audiences tuning into him every night for Letterman like fun.

Brothers Cameron & Colin Cairnes wrote and directed the film. It's a brilliant concept, nearly perfectly executed in the spirit of a low budget 1970's horror film/talk show.

However, like Ari Aster's superb "Hereditary" the ending damn near derails the film, but unlike that film, the Cairnes pull together a final 30 seconds that yanks it back from the brink.

Has there ever been a talk show guest as creepy as Lilly? From the moment she walks onto the set, her gaze never wavers from the nearest camera, just waiting to unleash the demon inside her, who she and the Doctor refer to as Mr. Wriggles. I have a strong suspicion that Mr. Wriggles and Captain Howdy have had more than a few drinks together in hell.

Tense, funny, gory, endlessly clever and hypnotic, this is terrifying fun at its unexpected best. Stephen King said of the film, "It's absolutely brilliant. I couldn't take my eyes off it."

I couldn't either Uncle Stevie. And when they replay that tape in the final segment.....hold on kids.

LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL gets an A-.




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