Late night talks shows have always been a weird source of entertainment. Very few can probably honestly say the hosts are truly funny. In fact other than Carson and Letterman most were obnoxiously safe playing into a slight mockery of current events but never going above anything of value. And yet that’s sometimes all people want, there is a reason so many tuned in almost every night especially in the 70’s. But what made these shows interesting is the concept that at night anything can happen, and while everyone is laughing at a late night host or guest the midnight hour is upon and danger can be right around the corner. Rarely did anything happen but there was always the possibility. Enter LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL, a step in the right direction for “found footage” horror and directed by Cameron and Colin Cairnes. Here is a prime example of how to spread out the tension in a way that almost makes you forget there is any major threat until it all comes crashing down in the most glorious way. The film also gives David Dastmalachian the leading man role he deserves. Dastmalachian who is often supporting weirdos (always great however) gets his big spotlight in a role that is desperate for the spotlight. A talk show host named Jack Delroy who will do whatever it takes to beat Carson in the ratings and especially during sweep weeks.
LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL is the kind of film that thankfully stays committed to its “gimmick.” Not a cheap one, but when the film begins in a mockumentary style that moves into seventies cinematography as we watch an old episode of Night Owls With Jack Delroy, you find yourself hoping it sticks to the format of 70’s style television but also doesn’t wear out fast. Thankfully it succeeds in both. Feeling like an episode of the Twilight Zone made by modern filmmakers who have great respect for the era, LATE NIGHT gets its laughs in with every moment of crappy one liners from Jack, cuts to commercials when things get heated and of course a tv producer hyped up on whiskey and cocaine. We learn early on that not only are the ratings tanking, but Jack is still grieving over his wife’s death from lung cancer that came on suddenly even though she never smoked a day in her life. Jack barely able to return to the show uses their Halloween episode to make sure it is a show that keeps them alive and is one the audience and Nielsen ratings never forget.
With most talk shows during the seventies if your guest wasn’t a super celeb or animal wrangler the next easy get was anyone claiming to have psychic abilities. Jack seeks this easy win for his crowd with a physic who can claims to speak to the audiences lost loved ones. The film has a fun time making a mockery of each guest Jack invites which includes a hypnosis turned skeptic and a young girl rescued from a cult who claims to be possessed by a demon. The performances of all the supporting cast are fully committed and are clearly having a blast reenacting (and nailing the corny voices) of possible swindlers claiming to have unique beyond world powers. But even if their skills are mocked on screen the audience still feels a sense of unease. That uncomfortable feeling carries throughout the film in a way that makes this new horror stand out since other films today keep choosing to hold our hand through most of its slow burn, while LATE NIGHT just lets the tape roll.
To say that LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL has some surprises in store is a cheap way to describe the film and the talents of the filmmakers. Instead the film and Dastmalchian harbor a darkness that is there from the start that when fully released doesn’t take you by storm but rather disturbs you that your suspicions are confirmed. There is an evil that has always been there and much like these talk show hosts and all their corniness have found a way to disguise any pain and anger until it can no longer be contained. It is then that we see the evil behind these talk shows all brought to you by a few local sponsors.
LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL PREMIERED AT THE SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST FILM FESTIVAL IN THE MIDNIGHT SECTION. IT WILL BE RELEASED LATE THIS YEAR