Late Night with the Devil Review

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis:

The independent horror genre is doing very well right now. It’s because of films like “Late Night with the Devil” that fresh stories still get to be told. A wildly original idea combined with a reasonable budget make for a phenomenal experience. We meet Jack Delroy, a late night talk show host whose ratings are suffering. In a desperate attempt to revive his viewership and beat Johnny Carson, he decides to take a risk. For a Halloween special, Jack invites a skeptic, a parapsychologist, and a cult survivor onto the show. But he soon realizes that the invitees may have brought something sinister to the set, where Jack has invited his audience to spend their evening with the Devil. 

Positives:

I remember the advertising for this had me hooked instantly. What looked to be a film highlighting a small cast and fresh idea seemed right up my alley. I’m happy to say the film exceeded these expectations. From beginning to end, “Late Night with the Devil” captured my attention. For a plot that resembles a late night television show, there was never a dull moment. The film is perfectly paced, using every minute of its runtime to progress the story forward. The film is largely dialogue driven and features a nice set of characters. Each brings something unique to the story. Specifically, each character’s relationship to the supernatural is different, making the events that unfold much more unsettling. Jack is running the show, more concerned about ratings than his audience’s safety. The people he invites on (skeptics and believers alike) both cause a lot of friction during the telecast. This adds even more tension as the supernatural events begin to unfold. The film isn’t outright scary, but the moments that showcase the terror really pay off. The tension and uncertainty of what’s going on builds and builds until the boisterous finale. Very impressed with how the story unfolds and how it surprises audiences in the best way possible. 

Another impressive aspect was the constant ability to subvert expectations. Nowadays, audience expectations are often subverted in the wrong ways…mismarketing the film as something entirely different. “Late Night with the Devil” abandons the familiar horror tropes for some twists and turns never before seen. As a critic, I watch more and more films each year, so finding one that keeps me on my toes makes for a worthwhile experience. There were at least three different scenes that played out differently than I expected. But outside of the storytelling, the technical aspects were also impressive. The movie is shot in a way that resembles a 70s television show. This makes the story feel more authentic and pays off well. Auteur filmmaking like this is impressive and I look forward to seeing more work from directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes. 

The film also tackles some big ideas. Through Jack, we see a man so concerned with ratings that he is willing to overlook circumstances that could be problematic. This is true with the ramifications of his audience, crew and deceased wife. His narcissism and ability to overlook other people unfolds in a way that is truly shocking. I really appreciated the way the story was able to convey these ideas. But the film wouldn’t have been as effective if not for the wonderful performances by the cast. I couldn’t find a weak link amongst the group, which really showcases the talent involved in the making of the movie. David Dastmalchian proves that he can lead a film and is quickly becoming a horror icon. I always enjoy his presence and am glad he was able to lead this one. 

Negatives:

The cons of “Late Night with the Devil” are miniscule compared to the pros. With a shoestring budget, it’s expected that some of the special effects won’t be the best. There are some moments where CGI is used to fill in the gaps after the scene was completed. It was pretty noticeable to me because the film largely relies on practical effects. I also thought the practical effects (while impressive) don’t measure up to movies with bigger budgets. But credit to the filmmakers for using every penny towards making the film feel more immersive. The ending is also something that may divide audiences. I really enjoyed how everything exploded at the right moment but could also see some audiences preferring a more subdued finale. It’s gutsy and shocking, which will resonate with some but not with others. The CGI in this scene was especially messy. The film also garnered controversy for using A.I. to generate certain visual elements. I hope this doesn’t become the norm in the film industry because it will restrain creative freedom for filmmakers. 

Conclusion: 

“Late Night with the Devil” managed to exceed my expectations in every way. The skillful execution, great performances, and ability to subvert audience expectations help the film stand out amongst the rest. Horror is really setting the standard for original filmmaking these days. It’s films like this that will drive fresh stories and continue to keep audiences on their toes. It will give everyone something new to look forward to. I can fully recommend the film to those who are looking for an original story. It’s likely “Late Night with the Devil” will be one of my favorite films of the year.