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  • Rev Horror

Late Night with the Devil

Dir. Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes (2023)

A talk show host, struggling to get to the top of the ratings, decides to welcome a controversial new guest: Satan.

Talk shows are a genre of entertainment that are hard to get right. You can be wildly entertaining and never make it to the top of the game. For every Oprah or The Tonight Show, you have a hundred The Magic Show's (which starred Magic Johnson, believe it or not). It's easy to imagine why: hosting your own show is hard work, and it's something that not everyone is cut out for, a lesson that I'll likely be learning soon as I'm getting ready to launch a podcast (details soon!). It's also fascinating, a topic that delves deep into the annals of television history, covering everything from the old variety shows starring the likes of Sonny and Cher to controversial fare like Jerry Springer. IFC's new film Late Night with the Devil, streaming now on Shudder, gives us a behind the scenes look at what it would be like to co-host one of these shows with the Lord of Darkness.

Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) has a talk show that is in a firm second place, trailing Johnny Carson by a substantial amount and struggling to find its footing after a couple of good years. Delroy's personal life is no better, having just lost the love of his life to cancer, a fact that he may or may not have exploited to gain ratings. As a last ditch effort to remain relevant, Delroy decides to host a Halloween show starring a psychologist who has been working closely with a possessed girl, attempting to harness the demon Abraxas in order to garner enough viewers to take down Carson once and for all. But forces beyond your control are indeed just that, and Delroy learns the hard way that demons are not to be trifled with.

Coming into Late Night, I wasn't the biggest fan of Dastmalchian. I don't dislike him, but he's sort of been a non-entity in my horror viewing, someone that I didn't mind seeing on-screen but not someone I would go out of my way to watch perform. In Late Night, however, he has certainly put my ignorance to bed, because he delivers a stellar performance that pretty much carries the film. Not that he doesn't receive help: pretty much everyone in the film does a fantastic job, especially Ingrid Torelli in her role as the possessed girl Lilly. Dastmalchian shines above the rest, though, and it's pretty clear why he's becoming the hottest male actor in horror. The choice to give him a Jim Jones-esque look was a brilliant one, giving a role that is not in-and-of-itself creepy an extra layer of terrifying nuance.

The concept of the film, delivered wonderfully by directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, is excellent, a 70's period piece that perfectly captures the aesthetics and the mood of the era. America's Satanic Panic happened a big later, mostly taking place in the 80's, but the fascination with the occult and cults was very much alive in the late 60's and 70's due to the cultural fascination with the Manson Family and the Church of Satan. Late Night is an excellent exploration of that period, and while it eventually goes a bit overboard on what general society would have accepted on their television in that time period, it's easy to see something like this going off the rails exactly as it does in the film. The choice to alternate between technicolor television shots and the black-and-white behind-the-scenes segments was amazing, a fantastic idea executed flawlessly and lending a good bit to the watchability of the film.

The main problem with the film is in its ending. Rather than choose one of the multiple paths the plot already allowed for, the filmmakers decided to go more metaphysical, a choice that felt like a stretch and didn't do justice to the rest of the film. It's still well-shot and acted, of course, so it doesn't really ruin the rest of the experience, but it's definitely a choice that I would've liked to see done differently. The psychological torment that comes with the territory when dealing with devils and demons is certainly an area that's worth exploring, but in a film based around a television show, especially one that is supposed to be a "lost" program from that era, taking the story outside those confines and leaning into the "is it real or imagined?" territory was probably the wrong ending for the film.

Nonetheless, Late Night with the Devil is still a fantastic watch and one that contained a little more gore and excitement than I expected. I'm totally cool with a slow burn as long as the slow parts are interesting, and Late Night does a fantastic job of holding your attention even when the bodies aren't dropping. Dastmalchian is excellent, the cast as a whole delivers a good performance, and it's an exceptionally well-done film. Had it stuck the landing, it would've been a 9/10 film. As it stands, it's a well-above-average flick with some memorable scenes, and it's definitely worth a look.

Who this movie is for: Slow burn horror fans, Possession movie lovers, Maury Povich

Bottom line: Late Night with the Devil is a good watch that shines (almost) all the way through. Despite a poor ending, it still manages to hold your attention and delivers some excellent gore and a few scares along the way. Dastmalchian is stellar, and the whole aesthetic of the 70's talk show is incredibly well-done. It's streaming now on Shudder, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

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