May 6, 2024
Late Night with the Devil (2023)
Grade: 76/100

Director: Cameron and Colin Cairnes
Stars: David Dastmalchian, Rhys Auteri, Ingrid Torelli

How others will see it. Late Night with the Devil premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2023. But it was mostly ignored on the festival circuit. It spread by word of mouth, and took more than a year to reach the IMDB Popularity top ten.

Today, the low-budget indie film has nearly 40K user votes, and a respectable 7.1 (out of 10) user rating. Although it ends as a horror movie, for most of its run time it is a comedy, specifically a parody of a talk show.

The user reviews are generally highly positive. Its originality is praised. People like Dastmalchian as the smarmy, desperate lead. The movie is called fun and interesting, though the ending comes under some criticism.

What it's about. Set in 1977. Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) is the host of a syndicated late-night talk show that always lags in the ratings behind Johnny Carson. As his ratings slip, is there anything that Delroy wouldn't do to beat Carson. Certainly, he wouldn't sacrifice his loving, loyal wife to the devil. Or would he?

After a brief build-up, the rest of the film is mostly Delroy's Halloween episode, with appropriately spooky guests. First up is temperamental mentalist Christou (Fayssai Bazzi), followed by cynical, flamboyant Uri Geller-ish psychic skeptic Haig (Ian Bliss), and to top the bill, psychologist Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her patient, creepy teenage girl Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), who is possessed by a demon.

The supporting cast includes Delroy's sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri), Delroy's late wife Madeleine (Georgina Haig), and the house band, who look stoned.

How I felt about it. Late Night with the Devil was never going to be Oscar material. No Political correctness boxes to check. Women director? No. Minority lead? No. A theme of overcoming oppression? No. Three strikes and you're out.

Nonetheless, it is a much better movie than most (if not all) of the Best Picture nominees, which shows that you don't need a huge budget, an A-list cast, or a conventional plot to make a good movie.

What you really need, above all, is a good script. And since two heads are better than one, it helps if your brother is co-director and co-writer. Cameron and Colin Cairnes are less heralded than the Coen brothers, but unlike them, they are still a team.

The script is great, the casting is good, and the pace of the film is ideal. We get to the horror show akin to The Fury (1978), but it has to build to make it more fun. Fun for us, if not the crew and guest audience of Delroy's talk show.