2 min read

Late Night with the Devil

A delightfully devilish play on the found footage form.
Late Night with the Devil

The horror genre is no stranger to found footage. There's "The Blair Witch Project," which spawned many clones with its intimate shaky camera. There's the "Paranormal Activity" series, with its detached security camera footage. There's also the lesser known, though terrific, "Taking of Deborah Logan," which utilized the documentary form. And now, entering the field is "Late Night with the Devil," which finds a new way to inject life into the found footage formula. This time, the footage isn't accidental, nor is it surveillance. This time the cameras, lights, and mics are on because the entire film takes place on the set of a late night talk show.

Hosting the show is Jack Delroy, played by David Dastmalchian. Dastmalchian has largely been a character actor for most of his career, and has been on a similar path to Paul Dano, usually playing a creepy guy or unnerving fellow. Here, he is incredible as Delroy, charming, charismatic, funny, and easy to root for. The entire film works because of Dastmalchian's Delroy, because we want so badly for him to succeed in his effort for higher ratings. Of course, he is filled with hubris and pride, and makes questionable decisions. But every time Delroy takes it a step too far, we fully understand his decisions. We don't get frustrated with him the same way we do with the teenagers of "The Blair Witch Project" or the families of "Paranormal Activity" because Jack's motivations are so clear. Delroy is a pastiche of other talk show hosts, fiddling with his blazer's buttons and bantering with his sidekick. But Dastmalchian also makes him real, filled with both a deep sadness and a genuine desire to please. It's a wonderful performance and a welcome opportunity for Dastmalchian to shine.

The script from writer-director pair, Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes, is razor tight coming in at a lean 86 minutes. Perhaps the most admirable feature about the movie is how little it feels the need to explain itself or to stuff itself with scares. The Cairnes show incredible restraint; rather than attempt to get us from the get-go, they take their time setting up the reality of this show. And that set-up isn't just window dressing. It's extremely fun because the show feels real. It feels like a late night talk show worth watching. My only problems with the script come in at the last ten minutes. As the film starts to close, the Cairnes seem to try and placate more denser audiences, at the cost of the film's overall elegance. It's a small bump in an otherwise terrific and sometimes terrifying feature that clearly loves both late night talk shows and demonic possession.

Perhaps the strangest thing about "Late Night With the Devil" is that it is the only movie where I thought while watching, "I wish I was watching this on my TV." The Cairnes do such an incredible job building a late night TV show that I wanted to watch it in a format that made it feel even more real. The arcane sense of unease and disquiet would have been even higher if I felt like I had let this movie into my home, let it live in my screen. That is such a rare feat, and perhaps a triumph for its distributor, "Shudder," a streaming platform that exclusively hosts horror films. The Cairnes Brothers's incredible and imaginative use of the found footage form is so innovative, that I have no choice but to recommend for the first and likely last time that you try watching this film on the small screen. Let Jack Delroy, and whatever presence that follows him, into your living room, if you dare.

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