Late Night with the Devil is not worth staying up for.

Late Night with the Devil is a supernatural horror that takes place during Halloween night, 1977. Host Jack Delroy, played by the always excellent David Dastmalchian. Attempts a last-ditch effort to save his show Nightowls from cancellation. The gag is to host a special Halloween themed episode full of psychics, mentalists, and a chat with the devil.

When I first saw the trailer in March, I knew I had to watch it. They used the classic Donald LeRoy LaFontaine movie narrator voice and a nostalgic seventies aesthetic to suck me in. What I saw in the trailer made me think this film would be absolutely terrifying.

Give the trailer editor an Oscar. This is what got me to the theater.

Unfortunately, a strong cast and brilliant aesthetic fail to deliver the most important part of a horror movie.

The scares.

Late Night with the Devil starts off with a heavy exposition dump.

One of the cardinal sins of storytelling is the info dump. The info dump is where the author or narrator tells you all the backstory to setup the scene. They use the trademark gravelly voice of Michael Ironside (Splinter Cell, Total Recall) to explain Jack’s predicament. A montage of news clips tells the audience the history of the show, Jack, and what caused ratings to slip. It was the passing of his wife Madeline Piper (Georgina Haig) that ultimately doomed Night Owls to a final season.

Without this montage, the movie would have literally been the length of the show.

And honestly? I would have preferred that.

Late Night with the Devil didn’t need the exposition. They could have just started with the show and adjusted the script to mention key details. The prologue (in my opinion) contributed to removing the feeling of tension and fear. Without a mystery, there’s nothing to be scared of.

The atmosphere of Late Night with the Devil perfectly encapsulates the ’70s!

Watching this movie brought me back to watching reruns of Three’s Company, the original Star Trek, and Enter the Dragon. The ’70s had a distinct look that seesawed between gritty and hopeful. The Nightowls set has rainbows in the background while Jack’s dusty colored suit radiates slimy salesman. Directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes really put the extra effort to make the film appear authentic to the time period.

The VHS grain, the 4×3 aspect ratio, even the typeface font all felt genuine to the 1970’s. I also appreciated David Dastmalchian’s earnest performance as Jack. He comes across as smarmy until he throws a funny one-liner you didn’t see coming.

When the possessed girl Lilly (Ingrid Torelli) appears on his show. Jack says,

“I’m sorry to have to do this but I am going to start off with a hard question.

Have you ever seen our show before?”

I genuinely laughed out loud. There was an undeniable charm to his loser character and the show felt so believably authentic. I particularly enjoyed the audience all dressed up in halloween costumes. They even included a fake bat to fly in front of the camera for commercial break. I had nostalgia for an era I never lived in. It was nice to see the special effects done by hand rather than computer imagery.

Unfortunately, once the special guests arrive on the show. That’s when the cracks in the narrative start to appear.

The first guest to appear is Cristou (Fayssal Bazzi) a psychic who can communicate with spirits. The trailer made it seem that Cristou’s apperance would begin the descent into madness. I very much expected a nightmare scenario where even the audience would be afraid for their lives. Cristou receives a message from a passing spirit which causes him immense pain. When the spirit leaves, Cristou remains unwell throughout the rest of the film.

Jack calls for a cut to commercial break and then we transition to the behind-the-scenes documentary style footage. Cristou’s segment raked in the ratings even though it left the psychic feeling terribly sick. Jack, elated by the news, realizes he could save his show from cancellation if they kept going.

Late Night with the Devil continues with the appearance of mentalist Carmichael Haig (Ian Bliss). Then Lilly and Paranormal psychologist June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon).

By now you’re probably thinking Lilly’s possession is where the sh** hits the fan right? The psychologist doesn’t want Jack to talk to the devil. His sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri) says they need to stop the show. And Jack says, “No, f– you all. We’re going to keep going so we have a job to go to tomorrow.”

So they bring Lilly out on stage and strap her down. The camera slowly zooms in to the psychologist as she tries to summon “Mr. Wriggles” to come out of Lilly. The tension builds. The camera slows to a crawl. Lilly’s bones crack as the monster appears, but the monster looks . . .

Super lame.

The face you see in the trailer is not the face Lilly transforms into.

Instead, she has some added scars and a prosthetic to make her look more brutish with yellow eyes. Mr. Wriggles couldn’t even qualify as a poor man’s exorcist. I had high hopes the appearance of the demon would send the show into a calamity.

It did not. This is where the trailer for Late Night with the Devil set the wrong expectations.

The title “Late Night with THE DEVIL” implies we’re going to see the devil, right?

Lilly’s demon should have been the climax of the movie. I thought the girl would escape her restraints and kill everyone in the audience. Sadly, none of this happens. The girl changes back to her human self via a slap to the face.

You couldn’t slap the devil out of Reagan in the Exorcist, so I didn’t understand why this worked.

I’m going to stop here because the rest would be spoilers. Instead,

Let me stop here to avoid spoiling the rest of the movie. Instead, I’m going to offer some closing thoughts from a writer perspective.

The title “Late Night with the Devil” is misleading because there is no real “devil” character.

  • If they’re implying Jack was the devil. They didn’t show anything he did that would classify him as evil. He’s too nice and felt awful for what happened to his wife.
  • Lilly carries a devil, but her presence is shallow, and the theme doesn’t revolve around her and her demon.
  • Was Jack’s wife the devil? If she’s a vengeful spirit they did a poor job of making this clear.

The story is more grief and guilt than a creature feature with the devil. Nothing’s wrong with this approach but the movie was too shallow to land effectively. It fails to hit any emotional highs and lows because it chooses to skim over character depth for “scary” segments.

Rather than focus on one key antagonist “the devil” it sticks to the variety show format and fails to elicit the dread and fear needed to make the movie scary or even disturbing. The directors focused on cheap looking special effects and gags while forgetting they were creating a horror movie.

This two-and-a-half-minute clip from Youtube creator Meatcanyon is a million times scarier and more disturbing than the hour and a half I spent watching Late Night with the Devil.

Therefore, I give Late Night with the Devil a solid three stars. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t scary.

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Wilmar Luna

Couldn't be a superhero in real life so he decided to write his own. When he's not creating empowered female characters he can be found watching films, reading books, and playing lots of video games. Buy his books here: