‘Late Night with the Devil’ Possesses Satirical Sting

'70s-era talk show parody runs out of gas at worst possible time

Colin and Cameron Cairnes’ “Late Night with the Devil” presents itself as a documentary about a haunted episode of a 1977 talk show, which we see in full.

Following a recap of how once-promising talk show Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchain) has hit a personal rock bottom and is struggling to keep his program on the air, we watch the show’s final episode.

Delroy showcases demonic possession as an effort to compete with Johnny Carson.

Late Night with the Devil: Official Trailer | Shudder

It helps that Dastmalchian is very good in the lead, though it’s Ingrid Torelli who steals the film. She plays Lilly, a satanic cult survivor who is demonically possessed and, to put it mildly, unwisely brought onto a live TV broadcast to boost the ratings.

Torelli has a presence that brings a completely different energy to the film. I found myself more afraid of Lilly than most other “evil kids” in these types of movies.

The more the screenplay draws out the premise, the better the film plays, as the anticipation is far more successful than the wrap up. Like a joke with a dud punchline but a great build, we get a well-made and entertaining work, though it’s easy to get ahead of it.

The thematic exploration of how the 1970s brought about televised horror and a shift in this country’s history is overlooked in the end in favor of the overtly supernatural payoff. The film overall is most successful when reminding us that our local news and low-fi, CGI/AI-free age showed us horrors that were unimaginable and real.

Just watching the six o’clock news was enough to scar with stories and images that shook us during dinner time.


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“Late Night with the Devil” is obvious and often silly but fun most of the way. I enjoyed how it begins as a recreation of a banal late-night talk show, grows increasingly more sinister and finally lets loose at the end.

Unfortunately, the third act is the film’s least effective, as obvious special effects, ill-defined logic and cheap shocks (like using a cancer patient as a scare tactic) take over the exploration of how skepticism and exploitation result in an unwise exploration into the unknown.

The presentation is always amusing, but I was never fooled into thinking I was watching a real broadcast. For one, the filmmakers include split-screen effects and edits that are meant to give the audience a more probing look at the action but only underline that we’re watching a movie.

On the other hand, there’s “WNUF Halloween Special” (2013), the brilliantly made and strikingly similar faux horror broadcast that isn’t just of the same ilk but superior.

WNUF Halloween Special - Trailer

Directed by Chris LaMartina and featuring a haunted broadcast surrounded by countless (and persuasively produced) fake commercials, it is anchored by a fine lead performance, consistently funny and impressive in its recreation of 1980s television (the filmmakers reportedly ran their film through three VCRs, resulting in the look of the faded videocassette artifact it’s supposed to be).

Like “Late Night with the Devil,” it peters out in the end, with a conclusion that is effective and ghoulish but nowhere near the knockout punchline one would hope for.

Still, even with an underwhelming finish, “WNUF Halloween Special” (which, like “Late Night with the Devil,” can be found on Shudder) is remarkable for being a clever facsimile and tribute to the macabre possibilities of late 20th century local broadcasting.

“Live With the Devil” is closer to being a pretty-good episode of “The Twilight Zone” (or, a far more accurate comparison, “Tales From the Darkside”) than a full-fledged horror classic. For some, that will be more than enough, and I wouldn’t mind revisiting it over time.

However, and I say this as a proper comparison and a hearty recommendation: “WNUF Halloween Special” did this better – if you’re going to watch them both as an ideal double feature, be sure to make “Late Night with the Devil” the second of the two.

Two and a Half Stars

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