Horror Movie Review: Late Night with the Devil (2023)

Written and directed by Cameron and Colin Cairnes, Late Night with the Devil has a lot of buzz around it. Having been premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in 2023, Shudder picked it up and will be releasing in on their platform on April 19th, 2024. Not before it does the cinema rounds though, which is where I saw it.

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Now, I want to start by saying that I went in with low expectations. Having seen the trailer, I thought it looked cool, but didn’t really see anything that stood out about it. I’m happy to say that the actual film exceeded those expectations, and I do think it’s well worth a watch.

That being said, it’s not a great film, for a number of reasons that I’ll get into in a bit, but it does have great moments. Many of which come from lead actor, David Dastmalchian, who is outstanding here. Alongside a cast that includes Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Fayssal Bazzi, Ingrid Torelli, Rhys Auteri, Georgina Haig, and Josh Quong Tart.

A found-footage horror film (don’t groan, it’s done differently here) with elements of a documentary, the story surrounds a talk-show. One hosted by the charismatic and aspiring Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian). On a Halloween night in 1977, and in an attempt to boost ailing ratings, Delroy and his producers decide to push the limits of TV by inviting a supposedly possessed girl onto the program.

What we, the viewers, now witness is the chaos of this show, as well as never before seen footage of what went on behind the scenes.

I’m going to dance around spoilers, as Late Night with the Devil has more to offer than just tired possession tropes. Often at its best when it is delving into the suggestive nature of TV and how convincing fraudulent behaviour can be. There’s a really solid attempt here to show different sides to everything. One great scene in particular, comes from a ‘charlatan’ who can speak with the dead. A scene that is all about winking to the audience (both in the studio and those watching the film), but also shows how such a lie can bring comfort to others.

As great as this scene is though, it’s a early indicator of one of Late Night with the Devil’s biggest problems. An early indicator that the film will constantly try to break your own immersion in what you are seeing. Either by winking to the viewer, by trying to be funny when it really shouldn’t be, and by spoon-feeding plot points.

Which is a major problem because this film requires the viewer to be immersed. The entire premise needs to be convincing, and it’s not always. In fact, it gets less and less immersive as it goes on. The first half of the movie is arguably the best, as it dives into the characters of the show, allows us to get to know Jack Delroy and all his nuances, and builds up dread as it leads to the possessed girl angle.

Once she is introduced, things begin to fall apart. Not completely, as Lily (Ingrid Torelli) is both sympathetic and unnerving, but it’s a slow and steady downhill curve from there. Other characters, who were just about bearable, become insufferable to the point of annoyance and the cast start to play them more like caricatures than actual real people.

There is a ramping up of the horror, but there are some ‘over the top’ moments that come across silly, and the poor CGI of other moments really breaks that immersion again.

This all leads to an ending that I think is bad. I genuinely feel like it should have ended a couple of minutes before, but instead, the writing spoon feeds us the reality of the situation. Explaining the how and why of Jack Delroy’s situation to the point of stupidity, failing to remember that all the hints throughout, was more than enough. Sometimes it’s better to let the viewer’s imagination do the work, but Late Night with the Devil says to hell with that.

It might be where my opinion divides the most, as an area like this is always going to come down to personal taste.

I also don’t want it to come across like I hated this film. I really didn’t. As stated at the start of this review, I really think it has many excellent moments and David Dastmalchian puts in one hell of a shift here. The early tension, the talk-show aesthetic, the purposeful moments of humour, and overall horror vibe makes for a good film.

It’s just a shame a few poor decisions were made that lower the overall quality for me. Although in one regard I’m not alone, as the filmmakers have been rightfully criticised for utilising AI-generated art in three still images within the movie.

Do see it though, as it’s well worth a watch, even if it’s just see how brilliant David Dastmalchian is.


  • Carl Fisher

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Late Night with the Devil (2023)
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