Monday, March 18, 2024

Late Night with the Devil

Unlike his successors, The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era really was a show for everyone. He regularly featured jazz musicians, like Buddy Rich and Joe Williams, as well as opera singers and classical musicians. It was hard to compete against his broadly based appeal, so his fictional second-place rival, Jack Delroy will try something desperate. Of course, horror fans know it will be a bad idea to invite a demonically possessed girl as a live studio guest, but he does it anyway in director-screenwriter-tandem Cameron & Colin Cairnes’s Late Night with the Devil, which opens in theaters this Friday.

In the 1970s, Delroy quickly became a strong second-place late night talk show host, but lately his show has been stagnating. Even the burst of sympathy that followed his beloved wife’s death was not enough to challenge Carson. Lately, the show has gotten somewhat Jerry Springer-ish. However, this special Halloween show will take it to a whole new level. In addition to Christou the psychic, Delroy has invited Lilly D’Abo, a girl who allegedly carries a demon inside her. Thanks to author and parapsychologist Dr. June Ross-Mitchell, she supposedly has control over the evil entity trying to possess her.

To add further stress, Carmichael Haig, formerly Carmichael the Conjurer, a former magician turned paranormal debunker (clearly inspired by James “The Amazing” Randi) is also invited to be the obnoxious voice of skepticism. Right, what could possibly go wrong?

Late Night is a found footage film, showing the chaotic events as recorded by the show’s cameras, including the live feed during commercials. However, it does not feel like found footage. Instead, it is more like watching a “real” movie. The art and production direction are incredible. This is a crazy horror film, but it still manages to inspire nostalgia for the couch-sitting talk shows of the era. Delroy’s backstory, as a member of a reputed ritualistic “old boy’s” club adds even further dimensions of sinister intrigue.

The Cairnes build the tension slowly, but there is a deeply unsettling vibe right from the start. Ingrid Torelli is amazingly effective, in a weird and creepy kind of way as D’Abo. Laura Gordon is also terrific as Ross-Mitchell, who seems to have some history with Delroy. Thanks to her, the character comes across smart and sympathetic, despite her regrettable hubris. David Delroy (who was great in
The Boogeyman) also gives complex performance that differentiates Delroy from a typical showbiz sleaze. Ian Bliss chews scenery like nobody’s business as the pompous Haig, while Fayssal Bazzi has some impressive freakouts and implosions as poor Christou.

The climax is maybe a little too over-the-top for
Late Night’s own good, but the way the Cairneses steadily escalate the horror show is highly entertaining and pretty darned scary. Frankly, this is the most fun you will have had watching a late-night talk show in literally decades. Enthusiastically recommended for horror fans, Late Night with the Devil opens this Friday (3/22) in New York, at the Regal Union Square.