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Late Night With The Devil (Film Review)

4 min read

Between the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, soaring inflation and the profound changes to all aspects of its politics, America was an anxious nation in the 1970s. Providing some light-hearted relief to that nation was Night Owls – a late-night talk show hosted by Jack Delroy (). Late Night with the Devil is a retrospective mockumentary based on the rise and fall of the show, and how the broadcast of its Halloween special on October 31st, 1977, changed its history forever.

The film opens with a promo reel detailing Delroy's rise to fame in the six seasons of Night Owls and includes an insight into his personal life – specifically his marriage to Madeliene, who left him widowed when she passed away from lung cancer. The success of the show is seemingly owed to the charisma and likeability of its host, who lost favour with the audience as he struggled through his grief.

Following the narrated introduction to his life and show, Delroy reappears in 1977 as a struggling man attempting to make a miraculous comeback with his Halloween Special. Through the broadcast footage of the special, as well as some never-before-seen behind-the-scenes clips, we meet his guests for the evening – Christou the psychic (Fayssal Bazzi), Carmichael the sceptic (Ian Bliss) and June the Parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) who brings along the subject of her latest book Lilly (Ingrid Torelli) – the sole survivor of a Satanic cult.

Despite mocking from Carmichael who accuses her of lying and taking advantage of Lily, June explains that the girl is possessed by an evil spirit, which she can communicate with and keep under control. When Night Owl's first guest Christou is rushed to the hospital following a particularly chaotic and gross scene, Delroy scrambles to keep his viewers by convincing June to bring forward the spirit live on tv.

On Halloween 1992, the BBC terrified British viewers with their livestream Ghostwatch, in which a tv crew led by Michael Parkinson attempted to document live evidence of paranormal activity. Readers from the UK will recognise similarities here with Late Night with the Devil, as creepy moments are scattered throughout the first act and met with nervous laughter and questioning glances to the crew behind the cameras. In private moments between set pieces crew members are questioning ‘How did they do that?' and it's the viewer's job to determine whether the events that take place are just smoke screens and mind tricks like the sceptic says, or whether they have truly bought forward something evil to spread its message across the nation.

Late Night with the Devil is a clear and particularly successful homage to 70s television, American late-night hosts, and – whether it realises it or not – the BBC show that garnered over one million calls from frightened and intrigued viewers back in the 1990s. Where it differs though, is that Late Night never seems to take itself too seriously. It's clear from the quirky performances, the psychedelic visual effects, the retro music, and how often we hilariously cut to commercial break or a message from the sponsors after something horrific has happened, that directors Cameron and want viewers to have fun with this schlocky, camp, over-the-top, riot of a film.

In a recent interview, Dastmalchian admitted he did not feel the role was ‘in his wheelhouse' off the back of prior roles where he regularly played the villain or more ‘odd' characters. On the contrary, Dastmalchian shines as Delroy – a seemingly empathetic and open-minded man, who mimics all of the personality tropes we see in people like Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Myers.

Much like any person in the fame spotlight though, there are always questions as to what they are really like. Late Night does this brilliantly as we see glimpses of Delroy's self-serving behaviour and begin to question his ambiguous past as it threatens to catch up with him. If it wasn't for his star power, some may even stumble across Late Night with the Devil and assume they were watching a real retrospective documentary, until things start to go seriously wrong of course.

Overall, Late Night with the Devil is a perfect mix of satire, satanic panic and SNL – it should be added to everyone's annual Halloween watchlist. Fans looking to be shaken to their core with fright may be disappointed, but for those who love the nostalgia of classic films and primetime tv, this is one not to be missed on the big screen.

Late Night with the Devil is in UK cinemas from Friday 22 March, and streaming on from Friday 19 April