Movie: Late Night with the Devil (2024)

It is going to be difficult to discuss in any relevant way 2024’s Late Night with the Devil without giving too much away.  Of course, “too much” will vary from person to person, so my plan is to peel away only a few layers of this onion, and give a warning to bail before I dig a bit deeper.  That said, my intention is to not reveal at any point anything which I think will give a potential viewer sufficient pieces to guess the ending beforehand.  But as they say about a road to somewhere being paved with good intentions…

It is safest to say this is a found-footage horror film where we see what is supposed to be an infamous Halloween episode of a 70’s talk show.  Given the host is David Dastmalchian, whom you have probably already seen in other films, you’ll know this is fiction.  The central conceit is something horrible happened during the original broadcast, and this “documentary” we’re watching is the first time that episode will be shown since that originally aired.  Given one of his guests is a possessed girl (Ingrid Torelli), one can imagine some of the ways this might go south.

Interested viewers might just as well bail at this point and see the movie.  Odds are you’ll enjoy it to some extent. 

This is a film with verisimilitude out the wazoo (a painful condition for which I believe no known treatment exists).  It completely nails the look of such talk shows in the era when this supposedly takes place. 

But something I did not care for is how fast and loose it plays with the rules of the found footage format.  There are some moments in the broadcast I swear a studio camera would have been very unlikely, maybe even impossible, to capture.  Then there’s behind-the-scenes footage we see in lieu of commercials during the breaks for those.  Questions still nagging me a couple of days after seeing this film are who was capturing these private conversations and why.  Also, there had to be more than one camera, given the edits. 

If you don’t have any such concerns, then I recommend you stop reading here and see the movie.  You can come back and finish this piece later.  I’ll still be here.

I’m on the fence about how I regard a quick documentary which precedes the broadcast.  We’re given just enough information about the host and his show’s background, especially his desperate attempt to beat Carson’s ratings.  The problem is the movie will eventually use everything we learn in that opening exposition dump, so I found myself simply waiting for each one of these elements to become a plot point.

To my considerable surprise, we have an allegedly possessed girl in a film and yet the most interesting character is a relatively minor one.  Ian Bliss plays a famous debunker of paranormal experts.  He is unmistakably modeled on James Randi, “The Amazing Randi”, including his shtick of carrying a check on him at all times which he claims he will turn over to the first person who can show him irrefutable proof of such powers.  I liked Randi, though he was obviously part of a showbiz circus in which he gladly participated.  The spin Bliss puts on him is more arrogant and condescending, and those attributes are necessary to the plot.

Immediately after the credits rolled, I realized I enjoyed Late Night with the Devil, though I felt it was flawed.  My appreciation is diminishing as more time passes and I have had more time to pick it apart.  I really wish it tried more to pass itself off uncannily as found footage, especially in the behind-the-scenes moments.  Perhaps it would have been better to have had fake commercials in those breaks.  It would have likely irritated audiences, but that element is what completely sold me on the similar WFMU Halloween Special, which I recommend over this film.   Much like the long wind-ups in the original The Blair Witch Project or Host, found footage needs to be a bit tedious to be completely believable.  After all, life is overwhelmingly made up of tedious, mundane moments.

Dir: Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes

Starring David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss

Watched in an actual theater, of all places