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  • Review by Faye Coulman

MOVIE REVIEW: Late Night with the Devil

From warring egos and extramarital scandal to grisly accounts of child sex offences and misogynistic exploitation, the TV and entertainment industry is about as rich (yet curiously untapped) a mine of inspiration as any horror director could wish for. With its notorious trappings of unimaginable wealth, fame and status amplifying the most self-serving and utterly abhorrent traits of humankind, Late Night With The Devil’s darkly absorbing central narrative of the corrupting power of celebrity is one that lends itself all too readily to the increasingly bleak and vacuous modern times in which we’re presently situated.


Indeed, despite being firmly entrenched in the classic, decidedly campy aesthetics that have long been synonymous with the ’70s chat show era, the razor-keen social commentary touched upon here resonates with the 21st century viewer on a number of different levels. From self-absorbed vanity to financial austerity and the unspeakable acts it drives those afflicted with it to commit, to the unprecedented power wielded by the rich and famous, directorial duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes’s thought-provoking, quirky and incredibly twisted picture taps into a rich, ink-black plethora of uncomfortably tangible real-world horrors.  


Fresh from losing his beloved wife to a brutally debilitating form of terminal illness, once-riotously successful chat show host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) takes centre stage of the Cairnes’s mind-altering mockumentary chiller. With his career in tatters following a humiliating run of lacklustre, poorly executed instalments and a public profile dogged by salacious gossip and controversy, Late Night finds our sideburn-sporting protagonist making one last, desperate bid to salvage what remains of his ruined reputation. And from the get-go, it’s clear he’s willing to sacrifice, quite literally, whatever it takes in order to claw back the network’s presently lamentable ratings.


So when a decidedly banal Halloween special takes an unexpectedly thrilling, supernatural turn after a fraudulent TV medium falls fatally ill onscreen, Delroy and his equally unscrupulous, cutthroat crew eagerly welcome the resulting, instantaneous publicity – never once stopping to consider the various casualties they’ll inevitably incur along the way. And sure enough, the aforementioned occult shenanigans are quick to garner the viewing public’s undivided attention, both within fictional sphere of the movie itself and beyond, as we, the cinema audience, find ourselves equally rapt by the frantically paced onslaught of supernatural phenomena unfolding before us. Unsettling scenes of blood-steeped ritual sacrifice, demonic possession and shape-shifting, Lovecraftian terrors rank among some of the most morbidly compelling highlights to be witnessed here.


Oscillating back and forth between the frenzied hyperactivity and applause of the stage and the vicious back-biting and bickering endlessly simmering away behind the scenes, the Cairnes’s masterful command of pacing and intricately layered storytelling combines to create incredibly arresting, edge-of-seat entertainment. Tensions between the various respective members of the cast and crew are both palpable and organically purveyed by a small but exceptionally talented collective of supporting actors, within which Josh Quong Tart delivers a particularly absorbing performance as despicably overbearing and tyrannical TV producer Leo Fiske.


Capped off with an ingenious curveball of a plot twist that artfully slots into place the final, horrifying act in Delroy’s turbulent downward spiral into self-delusion and abject lunacy, Late Night With The Devil offers up a rigorous, razor-keen examination of the most toxic and thoroughly unsettling facets of celebrity. Slicing open and laying bare before us a rotten and corrupt institution riddled with exploitation, greed and narcissism, the movie’s incisive social commentary, together with its endlessly twisting and idiosyncratic approach to storytelling, encapsulates all the hallmarks of an instant cult classic. After all, there’s no business like show-business…

9/10

Late Night with the Devil is showing now at a cinema near you

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