Late Night with the Devil recounts the events of Halloween 1977 when a talk show host aims to put on the most memorable and sinister TV event in history.
It’s Halloween night, 1977. Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), the host of Night Owls, has planned the most extravagant show to boost viewership. The late night talk show can’t quite seem to hit the top marks with viewers, always charting low on the Nielsen ratings. Delroy recruits Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), an ostentatious psychic, Carmichael Hunt (Ian Bliss), a sceptic when it comes to anything related to the supernatural, and June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon), an investigator of the occult, who brings along Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), the only survivor of a wiped out Satanic cult. What the audience watching in real time is about to see will change their lives forever. Late Night with the Devil is a mesmerising must-see horror.
Night Owls plays out exactly like a normal talk show would. There are a few guests, a musical performance at the end, and a live studio band who announce the show is back after every ad break. What’s slightly different is that we’re shown footage of what goes down on the set during the ad breaks. Late Night with the Devil begins with a voiceover that sets the scene, alongside a slideshow of clips from Delroy’s career and the reason behind why he needs to boost the viewership. We’re then thrown to the very beginning of the Halloween episode of 1977, but not before the voiceover announcing the terrifying words: “what you are about to see is the recently discovered master tape of what went to air that night”.
Christou is the first guest on the show and he can contact the dead. He tries to locate a member of the audience who’s dead relative is trying to reach out to them. Hunt, the second guest and the biggest sceptic in the world, laughs at the idea of being able to talk to the dead. He constantly talks over the guests when they’re trying to explain the phenomena of the occult. June and Lilly are the ones everyone has been waiting for. Lilly is a real-life survivor of a Satanic cult, and her legal guardian, June, has been able to access the demon which still lives inside of Lilly. What could go wrong with attempting to bring out the devil of a child on live TV!
The 70s feel of the film is executed well. If it wasn’t for the black and white footage sliced in between the main bulk of the show, it could pass as a real talk show. It’s a little formulaic in areas, like knowing that with every guest something “bad” is going to happen. But you never know what’s about to play out. Walking out of the cinema, I overheard a group of people deciphering the ending. Maybe it’s somewhat confusing, but I think it’s cleverly culminated.
Late Night with the Devil is a prime example of how to execute found footage horror immaculately. The sub-genre is ever expanding, constantly finding new ways to scare audiences. Late Night with the Devil really captures what viewers love from the sub-genre and puts them in the centre seat of the studio audience. It could have been a mere 20 minute segment within a horror anthology, like V/H/S, but it’s the right choice to have it as a feature length to get the most amount of fright out of it. Australian directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes have created one of the most skilful horrors of 2023.
The biggest standout of the film is easily Dastmalchian’s performance. He has so much glamour attached to the way he presents himself as the late night talk show host. It’s credible that he’s hosted Night Owls as Delroy for the majority of his career. Dastmalchian is indisputably one of my favourite leads of the entire year.
If you’re looking for something spooky to add to your Halloween watchlist, Late Night with the Devil is one to watch. The sense of the unknown the first time you watch it makes for a real treat. It’s unpredictable and spine-chilling, and also has its funny moments. Grab a bag of popcorn and indulge yourself into the spooks of the Cairnes brothers’ dreamlike horror.
Late Night with the Devil screened at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival on 9-14 October. Read our list of 25 movies to watch at the 2023 London Film Festival!