Moving Pictures
Mar 25, 2024, 06:27AM

Satan Tango

Satanic elements eventually appear in Late Night with the Devil, but it doesn't show us anything new.

Late night with the devil 020724 2 e85afb7abfab4d4398893cb7efdffb28.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The new film Late Night With the Devil is a triumph of production design and period detail, even if its underlying story is somewhat derivative. It assembles a beautiful package around a demonic possession plot we’ve seen many times before. Still, the film makes great use of the lead role of veteran character actor David Dastmalchian, and it serves as a fantastic achievement in production design. After a run at South by Southwest and more horror-focused film festivals last year, Late Night With the Devil is now in theaters from IFC.

Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian) hosts a late-night talk show called Night Owls in 1977. Despite intermittent popularity, he’s never beat Johnny Carson in the ratings. The film’s set on Halloween night, about a year after Jack’s wife’s death from cancer. The bulk of the film represents the “found footage” of that Halloween night broadcast, with Jack hosting a succession of “spooky” guests like a mentalist (Fayssal Bazzi), a skeptic (Ian Bliss), a parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) and the one girl who survived a cult’s mass suicide (Ingrid Torelli.) It’s got everything but Ed and Lorraine Warren, although a reference is made to the charlatan couple whose “work” inspired the Conjuring movies.

Satanic elements eventually appear. Unfortunately, it can’t show us much new. I still haven’t seen many movies about exorcisms that did it appreciably differently from The Exorcist, including that franchise’s numerous sequels and remakes. Regarding the combination of period TV and sudden violence, the monkey attack sequence in Jordan Peele’s Nope is a better version of the same idea. But the film’s worth it for its style and lead performance. And the ending is legitimately shocking.

Directed by Cameron and Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil is intimately familiar with the fashion, haircuts, style, and cadences of 1970s television and pulls off the look flawlessly. They’re Australian brothers who are presumably way too young to remember 1970s television, but they nail it. The film’s other triumph is the casting of Dastmalchian, a familiar face from his work as a character actor in Christopher Nolan movies and superhero films of the Nolan Batman, MCU, and DCEU varieties. He played the small but pivotal part in Nolan’s Oppenheimer as William Borden, who openly accused J. Robert Oppenheimer of being a Communist spy. Here, he’s natural in the lead role, both outwardly believable as a public-facing talk show host and the more tormented private man. After this, I could see his career pivoting to more significant parts in indie movies.

There’s considerable controversy related to Late Night With the Devil when some critics noticed that it appeared AI had been used for some artwork in interstitial moments a handful of times in the film; the filmmakers later confirmed this was true. I don’t love this, but it’s a minor part of the film. More noticeable is that Late Night With the Devil includes possibly the most production company logos I’ve ever seen before in a film. However, I don’t begrudge an independent film scrounging funding from many different places.


Register or Login to leave a comment