The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Late Night with the Devil

By George & Josh Bate

Late Night with the Devil review

David Dastmalchian has appeared in some of the most popular and best-received films of the century, bursting onto the scene with a small yet memorable role in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. He went on to work with high profile directors like Denis Villeneuve in Prisoners, acting alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, as well as a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dastmalchian reunited with Nolan for the 2023 film Oppenheimer, which won the Best Picture award at the most recent Academy Awards.

Dastmalchian’s career has in part been defined by his appearances in these memorable side roles, complementing the main characters and leaving a usually sinister mark on the film. However, the actor gets a chance to take center stage in Late Night with the Devil, a new period piece horror film that takes the form of a 1970s late night talk show.

Late Night with the Devil follows Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy, a talk show host with high aspirations to become the main face of late night television. Delroy, who has a mysterious backstory that includes a deceased wife and membership in a cult-like group, hosts Night Owls, a talk show filled with appropriately 1970s humor and humorous guests that airs at midnight. On Halloween night in 1977, what initially appears to be a normal broadcast for the show quickly gets out of hand, with death, possession, and a frightening, looming presence from beyond. 

Late Night with the Devil review

The entire film takes place in the studio, with most of the story occurring on stage in front of a live studio audience. Written and directed by Colin and Cameron Cairnes, the success of Late Night with the Devil is largely dependent on how much Night Owls feels like an authentic 70s talk show. The Cairnes nail this aspect of the film, ensuring that the dialogue, atmosphere, and humor will feel accurate to the time the film is set in. That immediately allows the audience to buy into the premise, making the eventual horror to come even scarier.

Dastmalchian plays his part in this success too. As Jack Delroy, Dastmalchian is believable and natural in his role as a 70s talk show host, even down to his quick comedic cues and mannerisms as the spookiness ramps up. Dastmalchian also adds Delroy’s desperation into the mix, as the presenter is seeking to reach the heights he once had and become the king of late night TV. 

The slow-burn nature of the story helps Late Night with the Devil to become even more frightening as the film progresses. The atmosphere is eerie from the start, but nothing particularly scary happens right away. It’s around 30 minutes in when strange things start to occur and only in the climax that the real horror takes center stage. Late Night with the Devil is a genuinely hair-raising movie, but not by relying on jump scares or quick stunts. Rather, the writer-director team make their film scary by slowly raising the tension throughout, leaving the audiences gripped as to what will happen next. 

Late Night with the Devil review

Late Night with the Devil succeeds with its authentic 1970s setting and slow-burn horror, but falls relatively short with its ending. The film concludes in hallucinogenic fashion, which creates a sense of unease and disorientation. The ending isn’t poor necessarily, but does unfold in a manner lacking clarity and refinement compared to the rest of the film. Narratively, not everything is crystal clear, and audiences are left to piece together some of the remaining elements to figure out what just happened over the course of the 90+ minutes. While that sense of purposeful ambiguity often works, especially in horror (see Twin Peaks: The Return), Late Night with the Devil can’t quite capture that success and is crying out for a more satisfying resolution.

VERDICT: 8/10

Late Night with the Devil features an outstanding performance from David Dastmalchian, stepping into the spotlight with a deserved and well overdue leading role. The writer-directors make the film spooky and atmospheric with the 70s talk show setting, and that virtually the entire story is told through the broadcast is a clever way to immerse audiences even more in the setting. A hallucinogenic ending lacking clarity detracts from the overall experience, but not enough to derail what is otherwise an extremely creative, entertaining, and unnerving film.

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