Mixing and matching genres keeps films fresh. While found footage horror comes in and out of popularity, the mockumentary format opens the door for truly chilling sequences. Adding realism to a story of death and destruction inherently adds to the stakes. Yet Late Night With the Devil changes the format once more. Creating a fictions event, and building a pseudo-documentary around “archival” footage helps it stand out. This is not like Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity films audiences expect. Instead, anchored by David Dastmalchian, Late Night with the Devil becomes a unique character study.
After years of trailing Johnny Carson in the ratings, the late-night show Night Owls takes drastic measures to take the number 1 spot. On Halloween night 1977, host Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian) packs the episode with spiritual and occult figures. The resulting night becomes far more deadly than anyone bargained for, bringing unknown creatures into the world.
The style of Late Night with the Devil shows extraordinary vision from Cameron and Colin Caines. The directors not only build out a unique premise, but they push for period accuracy across the board. While an introduction takes up about fifteen minutes to lay out the pieces, the exposition immediately pays dividends. This allows Late Night with the Devil to soar once it hits its groove.
The real takeaway from Late Night will be the incredible performance from Dastmalchian. He is a man desperately seeking validation from the world. Yet his emotional baggage has driven him to a new level of monomania. Dastmalchian stuns, not only easily handling the late-night host performance, but providing the perfect reaction shots. His fantastic turn sets the bar high for what constitutes a great performances in 2023.
The makeup and visual effects of Late Night with the Devil are also quite fantastic. Throughout much of the film, the footage is grained and color corrected to feel authentic to 1970s late night. Additionally, the special effects, including gore and worms, frighten. Some weaker effects in the last act do not hurt the overall film, but they could have used another pass despite being paired with brilliant images.
Late Night with the Devil lights up the screen with a wonderfully unique horror experience. Along with Skinamarink, it should help restore the presence of found footage on a wide scale. With a brilliant Dastmalchian performance, this will surely turn heads. Literally.