Scream Horror Magazine

LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL: FILM REVIEW

Posted on: March 11th, 2024

With their latest offering, by subverting expectations at every turn the Cairnes brothers have crafted a devilishly clever horror-comedy that manages to feel thrillingly unique while skewering the familiar mockumentary format. Seamlessly blending horror and hilarity with a devilishly smart script, phenomenal cast, and authentically retro ‘70s talk show aesthetic, this macabre mockumentary is the Cairnes’ most ingeniously entertaining output yet.

While the early scenes conjure up memories of Lesley Manning’s now notorious 1992 mockumentary Ghostwatch, which fooled a nation (myself included), the Cairnes’ take cranks up the creep factor, though an equal parts humorous and subtly macabre introduction to talk show host Jack Delroy’s climb up the rungs to fame. Michael Ironside provides the perfect ominous narration, his gravelly voice suggestive of something evil implicit in Delroy’s rise to prominence.

After revealing how the host found himself struggling to boost his plummeting ratings following the tragic death of his wife from cancer, the narrator sets us up for what’s to come: the footage of a 1971 episode, including backstage material filmed at the same time.

When the show gets underway, it has a startlingly real feel – complete with a live band, bubbly compere Gus McConnell (played to perfection by Rhys Auteri), meticulously crafted set and period-perfect wardrobe. The illusion is perfect, sucking the viewer into this time capsule of television’s glory days.

Every guest on the show also feels plucked from the era, each brimming with quirky authenticity. Fayssal Bazzi’s clairvoyant comes across as more con man than clairvoyant, while Ian Bliss plays Carmichael Haig, the cocksure magician-turned-sceptic to a tee. And then parapsychologist and author Laura Gordon (June Ross-Mitchell) arrives with wide-eyed cult escapee Lilly D’Abo (Ingrid Torelli), ripe for debate. And at the centre of it all is Jack Delroy, masterfully portrayed by set-stealer David Dastmalchian in a career-defining performance as the consummate talk show host; equal parts quick wit and smarmy charm.

Without giving anything away, let’s just say that the psychic’s performance on the show begins in familiar fashion, with vague guesses and cold readings, while the sceptical Carmichael Haig looks on derisively. But just when it looks like the demonstration is destined to hit rock bottom, the psychic takes an unexpected turn – falling violently sick, forcing the show to cut to commercial.

After a short break, we are introduced to June and Lilly, and the moment Lilly steps up, it is clear that something is terribly amiss. Lilly explains that she escaped from a demonic cult but has been possessed by a demon she calls “Mr Wiggles”. Hungry for ratings, Delroy urges June to help Lilly summon this so-called demon and, despite initial hesitation, June plays along and Mr Wiggles emerges in a disturbingly convincing manner. But Haig isn’t convinced, branding it a stunt before then attempting to expose the ruse with a wild demonstration of his own. I would love to be able to explain how it unfolds, but suffice it to say that Haig makes his point in the slimiest, creepiest way imaginable, and it’s a movie moment that audiences will be talking about for years to come. As you can imagine, Mr Wiggles doesn’t take kindly to being branded a fraud and things quickly descend into absolute chaos.

The pacing and comic timing of this mockumentary are spot on, faithfully recreating the tempo of late-night talk shows. Gradually introducing us to the main characters with typical TV humour, the film builds up a casual familiarity that makes the ensuing chaos all the more jarring. Things take a psychedelic turn in the final few minutes, which had this reviewer fearing an unsatisfying outcome, but a killer final twist is sure to catch you off guard and adds a deeper meaning to everything that’s gone before; leaving me wanting to rewatch the whole thing all over again.

Late Night with the Devil is one of those rare horror films that upends well-worn horror tropes in every unexpected way, elevating the whole thing with exceptional performances from the ensemble cast and a fiendishly sharp social commentary that’s eerily in tune with today’s YouTube-obsessed era. With its flawless execution and instantly memorable aesthetic, Late Night with the Devil is a macabre masterpiece destined for midnight movie immortality.

Words: Howard Gorman

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