Friday, April 19, 2024

“LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL”

THE STORY – In 1977 a live television broadcast goes horribly wrong, unleashing evil into the nation’s living rooms.

THE CAST – David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss & Fayssal Bazzi

THE TEAM – Colin Cairnes & Cameron Cairnes (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 93 Minutes


There is something to relish in the elasticity that the horror genre can provide. It’s an intriguing realm that can often be enjoyed for surface-level thrills while acting as a Trojan horse to smuggle in deeper thematic weight for an audience. It is a foundation that can be utilized with a mixture of tones, creating a vivid and creative tapestry to explore. For a landscape that can be tiresome due to the frequency of pedestrian tropes, there remains plenty of opportunity for a novel showcase. A film like “Late Night with the Devil” has familiar elements within its structure while attempting to infuse them in an inventive display. The results are occasionally uneven but do give way to engaging set pieces that land with an impactful presence.

The premise revolves around the taping of a fictional late-night program in 1977. Host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) is desperately trying to keep this gig after a series of personal and professional failures that have pushed him to the brink. In a last-ditch effort, he plans a Halloween-themed extravaganza during Sweeps Week, hoping that ratings will improve enough for the network to renew his contract. Between the banter with his on-air sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri), he introduces a bevy of guests who indulge in the supernatural atmosphere of the episode. There is a psychic medium known as Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), a well-known scientific skeptic (Ian Bliss) (deployed for counterbalance), a paranormal investigator (Laura Gordon), and bringing with her a young girl named Lily (Ingrid Torelli) who comes from a tragic past. These final guests are the ones that unlock a night of terror that will surely be remembered, if not for exactly the reasons Delroy is pursuing.

The tone that the writing-directing duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes establish has an innocuous setting at first that slowly gives way to a propulsive dread. Their execution is compelling, if flawed. There’s a significant amount of suspense regarding this sequence of events, but the presentation struggles to commit to its own bit. Much of this narrative plays like a real recording of a live television talk show or at least does its best to emulate one from the era. When commercial breaks happen, interstitial “behind the scenes” moments are shown as a means to further explain plot details and deliver more conventional storytelling. In this regard, the illusion of the environment is broken with far less interesting components. It’s a similar issue with the heavy narration at the start, meant to give out expositional context but feels more like a stale assemblage of cliff notes. Forgoing these aspects for recreations of retro adverts may have been a more engrossing avenue to take.

However, once the film fully settles in, one is treated to a captivating spectacle that is quite entertaining to witness. Like most horror movies, the escalation is slow but potent. The psychic has a violent outburst that shocks the audience or the skeptic has a spirited clash of words. Things don’t really get exciting until Lily arrives, and multiple scenes of demonic possession have a genuine thrill to them. These scenes capture both the exuberance of observing practical makeup effects but also a legitimate sense of tension that is highly effective. All of it, of course, culminates in a flamboyant finale that makes the preceding hour look rather tedious in comparison. One can’t help but be gleeful at the insane carnage being unleashed, with some palpable scares attached as well.

Dastmalchian has been a reliable character actor for some time now, regularly showing up in bit parts in films from massive directors like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. Here, he finally gets the chance to shine in a leading role and provides a well-placed anchor to work. It’s not the flashy persona of a cheap talk show host, nor is it a gimmicky persona of some extravagant alter-ego. He straightforwardly plays Delroy, grounding him amongst the chaos with a real sense of apprehension for his situation. It’s a memorable turn, if only for his steadfast determination, which is quite impressive. The supporting players each have their own unforgettable moments, as Bazzi, Bliss, and Gordon do a fine job in their respective parts. Torelli is the true standout, perfectly showcasing the haunting creepiness that morphs into frightful aggression. Much of the third act’s success is due to her fierce dedication.

During the long-winded opening to “Late Night with the Devil,” there’s a line that mentions how televisions during this era were bringing horror into the living rooms of the American people, with depictions of war and civil unrest of the time. Even though the genre is often a perfect vessel for metaphor, that connection is only loosely established. The thematic weight here is light, and the storytelling methodology has trouble selling its premise consistently to the end. However, there is an awareness of when moments need to be highlighted with grandiosity, and that’s when the film is the most enthralling. The end product may not be as creative as its concept, but it nonetheless puts on a grand show.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The film has some impressive sequences that indulge the use of great practical effects and an impactful aura of tension and dread. David Dastmalchian anchors the piece with a grounded performance, and Ingrid Torelli steals the show with a demonic portrayal.

THE BAD - The execution can be inconsistently engaging, with an exposition dump and interstitial sequences that break up the flow of the narrative. The escalation can be tedious to power through at times.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

98,860FollowersFollow
98,860FollowersFollow
7,305FansLike
7,305FansLike
4,490FollowersFollow
4,490FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>The film has some impressive sequences that indulge the use of great practical effects and an impactful aura of tension and dread. David Dastmalchian anchors the piece with a grounded performance, and Ingrid Torelli steals the show with a demonic portrayal.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The execution can be inconsistently engaging, with an exposition dump and interstitial sequences that break up the flow of the narrative. The escalation can be tedious to power through at times.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL"