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Many horror tales like “Late Night with the Devil” warn against succumbing to the bright, blinding spotlights of fame, but few mirror its structure. “Ghostwatch,” “WNUF Halloween Special,” or the “Public Television of the Dead” episode of Shudder’s “Creepshow” are comparison points, as Cameron and Colin Cairnes unleash evils upon a nightly talk show’s most important episode. It’s a period throwback to 1970s horror vibes with mentions of Vincent Price or Ed and Lorraine Warren (although they’ve made a comeback thanks to James Wan) that eerily recreates the experience of being on a bustling Sweeps Week set. Expect something more cable-access creepy than ratings-breaking scary, taking its time through interview segments before the devil raises all kinds of hell in front of a live studio audience.

David Dastmalchian stars as the graciously charismatic Jack Delroy, a Chicago TV host who builds a late-night following with his smash-hit show Night Owls. As his popularity climbs, he ascends closer and closer to top billing but can’t dethrone Johnny Carson. The death of his wife Madeleine sends the super host spiraling, and after a month’s hiatus, he returns to dwindling approval numbers. In a last-ditch effort to save Night Owls, Jack lines up a 1977 Halloween show with mediums, skeptics, and hopefully enough morbid curiosity to reignite his career. Jack might score the most elusive guest in talk show history after a mentalist, skeptic, and possessed girl all take turns if he plays his cards right — or wrong, depending on one’s sanity.

The replication of talk show productions, backstage drama, and real-time trajectory are unique features that prevent audiences from looking backward, only forward into madness. “Late Night with the Devil” breaks the facade of polished monologues and camera-ready talent by keying into the trainwreck phenomenon of knowing what’s coming but being unable to look away. The experience plays like a distant cousin to found footage, rooted in the realism of watching what would appear on our television, yet poisoned by an introduction that promises doom and gloom to follow. The Cairnes siblings distort reality and invade the comfort of our homes by recreating family room entertainment with a surreal horror bite, heaping on commentary about the insidious nature of showbiz that corrupts even the most wholesome-presenting celebrities.

A Public Access Exorcism

Dastmalchian carries “Late Night with the Devil” as an ironclad conversationalist who smiles his way into America’s hearts, which isn’t entirely a con. Still, distress under his patted makeup and slick attire burns behind jittery eyes. Jack is desperate to stay on TV Guide covers, which becomes more evident as he keeps asking producer Leo (Josh Quong Tart) if he’s meddling with electric wires or tweaking things behind the scenes, pushing off supernatural warnings. Dastmalchian carries scene after scene with his ability to soften pure chaos, whether downplaying psychic Christou’s (Fayssal Bazzi) physical deterioration after a draining encounter or calming viewers after meeting cult survivor Lilly D’Abo’s (Ingrid Torelli) split demonic personality. Jack Delroy has the wit of Leno, Carson’s gab, and a late-night mogul’s stress-free demeanor, which comes so easily to the doesn’t-break-a-sweat Dastmalchian.

As for the horror elements, they’re a tad on the weaker side. “Late Night with the Devil” plays like a public access exorcism but takes its time getting to the more nightmarish elements of outright possession evidence on camera (and not all SFX execute on high). Something like “The Cleansing Hour” plays with the same formula — a livestream exorcist faces an actual demon who wants to expose the fraud — but sustains biting horror throughout. “Late Night with the Devil” is more tuned to replicating ’70s horror in tone and tempo, as interview segments become acts separated by black-and-white “raw” footage during commercial breaks (strangely edited and shot from multiple angles). It’s not savvy enough to hold its cards tight, and the screenplay reveals its intentions early, as a prolonged buildup with minimal frights still raises Jack’s ratings higher and higher. Skeptic man of science Carmichael Hunt (Ian Bliss) keeps interrupting Jack’s show to debunk paranormal displays, and while the naysayer is well-acted, the delays become less thrilling until a hypnotizing third act. It’s all meant to enhance the inevitable crash when “Late Night with the Devil” reveals its blasphemous closing guest, and does, but at a detriment to adrenalized excitement.

Cameron and Colin Cairnes succeed in developing a time-warp slice of Halloween spookiness, a vessel for David Dastmalchian to prove himself (for those who don’t know) as a commanding lead performer. It’s never the scariest “live-action” descent into the paranormal but works as a kooky talk show with underworld loomings from a more wholesome era. “Late Night with the Devil” is another take on something like “Starry Eyes” and all other horror commentaries about the sacrifices some make for popularity. Dastmalchian drips with charismatic attraction as Jack Delroy, which provides the perfect cover for sinister reveals about climbs to television infamy. Although it’s got momentum issues, it still meets Halloween marathon requirements worth the devil’s American talk show debut.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Read this next: All 59 Stephen King Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

The post Late Night With The Devil Review: Terror On Your Television Screen [SXSW 2023] appeared first on /Film.

/Film – Late Night With The Devil Review: Terror On Your Television Screen [SXSW 2023]
Author: Matt Donato
Go to Source
March 15, 2023

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