“Late Night with the Devil”


Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (7/10)

How far are you willing to go in realizing your ambitions? Would you be willing to make big sacrifices? Associate with shady beings? Sell your soul? Those are among the possibilities raised in the latest hair-raising smart horror/comedy from the writing-directing duo of Cameron and Colin Cairnes. This documentary-style offering presents the supposedly lost recording (complete with allegedly never-before-seen found footage) of a 1970s late night talk show hosted by comedian/TV personality Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) whose goal is to unseat Johnny Carson’s eminently popular Tonight Show as the premier after-hours choice of viewing. Delroy’s Night Owls broadcast is modestly successful, but it never manages to win the late night ratings race, so he desperately looks for ways to nudge his program over the top. When he decides to host a Halloween show with an array of occult/paranormal guests – capitalizing on a growing trend at the time – he believes he’s hit on the formula to achieve his goal. But, as the show progresses, he finds himself in over his head as events begin to spiral out of control. Viewers both on and off the screen are kept in suspense with a well-integrated blend of humor, high camp and unexpectedly spooky moments involving a hammy, self-righteous psychic medium (Fayssal Bazzi), an egomanical magician-turned-debunker (Ian Bliss), and an escaped teenage cult member (Ingrid Torelli) and her psychologist caregiver/surrogate parent (Laura Gordon). As things deteriorate, Jack tries to hold the show together with the aid of his producer (Josh Quong Tart) and flunky sidekick (Rhys Auteri). But, as the stakes are continually upped, that task grows ever more difficult, especially when supernatural influences begin to assert themselves in the studio, threatening both the broadcast and the fulfillment of the host’s long-cherished dream. Although occasional pacing issues, a periodically disjointed narrative and a somewhat overblown final act can get in the way of the smoothness of the story flow, these shortcomings are made up for by the film’s superb period piece production design, its clever writing and its fine performances, most notably that of the protagonist. And, in the end, it’s all served up with lots of laughs and a tidy moral of the story. Admittedly, “Late Night with the Devil” probably would have worked better as a Halloween release than a piece of springtime movie fare, but that doesn’t lessen the entertainment value of this inspired production, one thar shows horror flicks can indeed do more than just see how high it can make the final body count.