Today: April 14, 2024

Late Night with the Devil

The controversy around Late Night with the Devil’s use of AI has led to some incredibly important conversations, and being upset or angry about it is totally valid. But I’m not going to give this issue any more airtime here, because as crucial as these discussions are, they threaten to detract from the film. So, we’re going to focus on what the film does well – which just so happens to be literally everything else. 

Although Late Night with the Devil is probably best experienced blind, the premise is a simple one – following the tragic and mysterious death of his wife, struggling 1970s talk show host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) decides to do a special occult-themed Halloween special of his show in one last attempt to boost his ratings and reputation. But as the evening goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that evil has made its way into the studio.

In documentary format, the film is made up of the hazy, static-filled long-lost master tape of the 1977 broadcast and backstage footage from the fateful night in real time. The result is an impeccably paced and chillingly intense 86 minutes, with the structure also lending itself to some dark laughs – an ill-advised and ill-fated attempt to commune with the devil live on air, for example, is pushed back until after an ad break to allow time for “a word from our sponsors”. Dastmalchian is impeccable – his Jack Delroy is an undeniably charming and endearing host, but barely hiding a slimy insincerity and desperation for ratings. The supporting cast – Jack’s guests on the programme, and his crew backstage – are all equally excellent. Special mention should go to Ingrid Torelli as Lilly, the sole survivor of a mass cult suicide who might just share her body with the demonic ‘Mr. Wriggles’…

The attention to detail throughout is wonderful – it’s clear the filmmakers did their research because every single hallmark of 1970s network talk shows is present and correct. While the film is undeniably satirical in its portrayal of these tropes, there is also a clear affection for them. The film looks and sounds so uncannily authentic; if it wasn’t for the recognisable lead, one could easily be fooled into thinking the events unfolding in the film were the real deal.

Playing like BBC’s infamous 1992 classic Ghostwatch if it were directed by David Lynch, Late Night with the Devil is a disturbing and darkly amusing modern horror masterpiece destined for cult classic status. Despite the aforementioned controversy, here is a film that is clearly crafted with love. It is a terrible shame that some audiences are boycotting the film and refusing to engage with what is a wholly original and unique film packed with unforgettable scares, gleefully era-authentic atmosphere, and a career-best performance from fan favourite David Dastmalchian. Do not adjust your set. This could be one of the best films of 2024.

Late Night with the Devil is in UK cinemas now from Vertigo Releasing

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