Late Night with the Devil {Sydney Film Festival} – Film Review

Documentary-style or found footage-style horror films are very hit or miss.

You’ll either find yourself walking out of a cinema thinking this will be on your mind for many days to come due to how effective it was, or you’ll walk out being very disappointed and that you should have known better. It’s how I feel with this genre of horror films nowadays, and as the years go on, I’ve found it is becoming somewhat stale. Whilst not exactly found footage but closer to a documentary-style type of movie, and in the same vein of these type of horror movies, Late Night with the Devil thoroughly impressed me and left me wanting more.

Late Night with the Devil introduces us to Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), a popular 1970s late-night TV talk show host who has been somewhat of a must-see-TV type of figure on American Television with his show Night Owls with Jack Delroy. Although never dominating the top spot in the ratings but just shy of that position, Jack is beloved by many across America. However, after a setback in his personal life which is publicly splashed across news outlets and even louder noise of his connection into a mysterious ‘men’s only club’ called The Grove, thus begins Night Owls with Jack Delroy’s plummet into low ratings.

In a desperate attempt to reign supreme as the Number 1 late-night talk show host whilst regaining the television ratings he once had and even come out on top, Jack resorts to inviting guests to his couch on Halloween night, 1977, regarding the supernatural with guests such as the famous psychic Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) who can read people’s minds, ex-magician-turned sceptic Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), Occult researcher June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and the very subject of her latest book Conversations with the Devil, Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), a young girl who was a sole survivor of a satanic church cult’s suicide, who claims a demon called ‘Mr. Wiggles’ resides inside her. Jack insists Lilly bring this demon out on national television and of course trouble ensues.

Right off the bat I must confess, I absolutely loved this movie. Everything from the eerie, edge-of-your-seat atmosphere to the set design and cinematography to resemble something straight out the 70’s so accurately, right down to the fantastic and excellently chosen cast to portray all these characters. The entire time this film had me engrossed from start to finish, and when the end credits started to roll, I was gutted that this movie reached its conclusion when I felt like I had only just sat down to begin my viewing experience, which I feel is a testament to how enticing and fantastic Late Night with the Devil is.

As the film opens with a warning from a narrator advising that the following behind-the-scenes footage you’re about to see from is disturbing and never-before-seen, the majority of the film is presented as an old tape recording of the infamous televised night.

I really loved that the aspect ratio looked exactly like something from a 1970’s TV to really give the feeling that I was genuinely watching a real ‘missing tape’ of haunted events. Despite this, the film does occasionally ‘break away’ from this format and when Night Owls with Jack Delroy goes on commercial break, the film suddenly changes to black and white and a standard film ratio aspect. We then see these characters walk backstage interact and talk as if this were a normal film. It’s a slightly weird jump of how the story progresses with exposition and characters talking, but these moments are few and far in between and the majority of Late Night with the Devil sticks to its spooky documentary-style method of ‘show-and-tell’ to great effect.

The entire cast here are just incredible, all bring such excellent and believable performances. David Dastmalchian as the desperate TV night host Jack Delroy was so convincing from the cheesy monologue chat, right down to his comedic collaboration with his co-host Gus McConnell (Rhys Auteri) to the point where I genuinely believed at one point, I was watching actual recorded 70’s late night TV. Honestly, the effort put into this was really well done.

A serious congratulations to the cast and also big props to the crew for creating a fictional world with their characters that feel and look so real. Matthew Temple is the Cinematographer whilst the Makeup Department consisting of Josue Hanuska, Sarah Moss, Marie Princi and Russell Sharp have all done extremely well for providing us the fictional 70’s late night show and characters that appear so convincingly realistic.

It’s also fantastic to know that Late Night with the Devil, despite being set in 70’s America, is Australian-made. Homegrown films such as these make me proud and convinced that Australia can create excellent films which showcases the talents that we have to offer worldwide. Aussie siblings Cameron Cairns and Colin Cairns, the directors and writers of this film, should be praised for coming up with such an effectively spooky and tense horror movie that manages to keep you in suspense until the very end. Impressive stuff.

Late Night with the Devil is an excellently crafted film that is essential viewing especially for the Halloween time of year. It’s a film that will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next at every moment and ever turn, and it delivers, suspenseful until the very end.

Late Night with the Devil is playing as part of the Sydney Film Festival which runs until June 18th.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://www.sff.org.au
https://www.sff.org.au/program/browse/late-night-with-the-devil

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