Late Night with the Devil is awaiting a UK release date.
Anyone who remembers the legendary BBC mockumentary Ghost Watch from Halloween Night 1992 will have a clue of what to expect from Colin and Cameron Cairnes, Late Night with the Devil, as a 70s late-night talk show turns from laughter and debate to horror before our very eyes. However, unlike Ghost Watch, which fooled many into thinking it was a live broadcast, led by trusted chat show host Michael Parkinson, Late Night with the Devil makes clear from the outset that this is a found footage movie as an eight-minute black-and-white prologue establishes the seventies as a “time of unrest and mistrust, fear and violence.” In this time of occult obsession, strikes and financial woes, chat show hosts reigned supreme on American Networks, and late-night variety-inspired talk shows pulled in colossal TV audiences looking for entertainment and escape.
“Night Owls”, hosted by Jack Delroy, played by the outstanding David Dastmalchian in a rare leading role, helps American audiences unwind five nights a week through sketches, interviews and amusements. But despite Jack’s success, he has never achieved the ratings of his rival Johnny Carson, and that is eating away at him as the network debates whether to cancel the show after six seasons. Jack needs something big, something Carson could only dream of if his show is to stay on the air, and Halloween Night seems the right time to try something that has never been seen on Network TV.
On Halloween night, 1977, Jack introduces a show centred around the occult and possession, with guests including a psychic who communes with the dead, the Amazing Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), a sceptic ex-magician Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), parapsychologist and author Dr June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her subject, Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), a teen who was the sole survivor of a Satanic church mass suicide and a vessel for a demon called “Mr Wiggles.” But this is one televisual experiment Jack will regret, even if his viewing figures go through the roof as Night Owls slowly morphs into a late-night chat show with a very special guest: the devil.
The original broadcast on Halloween Night, 1977, shocked a nation and led to many turbulent nights of sleep for those caught in its devilish grasp. But soon after, all the footage vanished, including the off-screen taped recordings while viewers watched sponsored ads. Late Night with the Devil brings us the found footage of the live show intercut with backstage filming in a delightful, creepy, tongue-in-cheek and utterly compelling found footage movie that breathes new life into the genre.
Late Night with the Devil beautifully laces humour, scares and nostalgia into a cautionary tale of the media’s need for viewers and the celebrity’s need to maintain visibility and status at any cost. Production design beautifully recreates the atmosphere of the late-night 70s talk show, from jingles to ad break cards and costume and set design. But what makes Late Night with the Devil work so well is the stand-out performance of David Dastmalchian, who captures the essence of the 70s talk show host as he sits in a cornucopia of brown and orange furniture. Jack’s on-screen persona is gentle, warm and loving, hiding his off-screen vulnerabilities and uncertainties as the show faces cancellation. Here, TV-viewing figures are Jack’s world, and he will do whatever it takes to ensure those figures go up, even if it means making a deal with the Devil. Dastmalchian’s performance is electric yet tinged with melancholy, his on-screen charm hiding a life of insecurity and secrets.
Late Night with the Devil is wickedly entertaining, delightfully observant and deliciously twisted. Here, Colin and Cameron Cairnes inject new energy into the found footage format that now often feels lazy and tired while paying homage to a range of movies and TV shows, from The Exorcist (1973) to Ghost Watch (1992) and The Forbidden Files (1989). The result is an electrifying and engaging movie, full of magnetic performances as a 70s late-night chat show and its desperate host unwittingly open the gates of hell for viewing figures.
Late Night with the Devil is wickedly entertaining, delightfully observant and deliciously twisted. Here, Colin and Cameron Cairnes inject new energy into the found footage format that now too often feels lazy and tired while paying homage to a range of movies and TV shows, from The Exorcist (1973) to Ghost Watch (1992) and The Forbidden Files (1989).