Overlook Film Festival 2023 Review: Late Night With the Devil

While audience and critic opinions don’t always align, I think we can all agree this year’s Audience Award winner at the Overlook Film Festival is a smash hit. That film is none other than Late Night With the Devil, written and directed by filmmaking duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes (100 Bloody Acres, Scare Campaign), collectively known as the Cairnes Brothers. Taking place in 1977 at the peak of late-night talk show popularity, the host of a failing talk show tries to get his rating up by doing a Halloween special. He brings a doctor and a young girl (who is supposedly possessed) onto his show in hopes of getting proof of the supernatural, but by the end of the special he learns some things are better left alone.

Late Night With the Devil starts out like a documentary. This allows for the filmmakers to go over the television show’s history leading up to that fateful Halloween night. After the audience is given all the context they need, the format switches to showing what aired on live TV that night, as well as some behind the scenes footage that took place during the commercial breaks. The Cairnes Brothers do a fantastic job of starting things out lighthearted and comedic while also planting seeds that allude to something more sinister and mysterious. Amidst the laughs, the suspense builds as increasingly horrifying events happen on stage, all culminating in a shocking, explosive final act.

It’s almost impossible to not have fun watching this film. The filmmakers were able to capture the spirit of those popular late-night talk shows of the 70’s, complete with all the pageantry and camp one would expect. By weaving in the horror elements such as conspiracy theories, ominous cults, psychic phenomenon, and demonic possession, the laughs gradually change to gasps and screams. At about an hour and 26 minutes, Late Night With the Devil packs a lot of plot in a short amount of time. While the audience is given most of the context they need to make sense of everything that happens, there are a couple of unanswered questions by the time the curtain drops. These questions aren’t necessarily big enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the film, but it would help to eliminate any confusion.

Part of what makes Late Night With the Devil such an entertaining watch is the performances. David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Dune) stars as the host of the show, Jack Delroy. Most people will recognize Dastmalchian from Marvel and DC films where he often steals every scene he’s in. It’s great to see him finally get a starring role that combines his excellent comedic timing with his love of the horror genre. Jack isn’t a bad guy, but in his quest to be the best he makes increasingly bad decisions. Not only does Dastmalchian completely embody the cheesy talk show host persona Jack takes on, but he also delivers a nuanced performance with emotional depth and complexity. Other wonderful performances come from Rhys Auteri as Jack’s trusty sidekick, Laura Gordon (Saw V) as the doctor, Fayssal Bazzi (The Merger) as a psychic medium, Ingrid Torelli (Bloom) as the possessed girl, and Ian Bliss (The Matrix Reloaded) as a supernatural debunker.

As a supernatural horror comedy that takes place in the 70’s, it’s only natural that a lot of effort when into the visuals of Late Night With the Devil. The set design is the first thing audiences will notice. Every part of the stage Jack’s talk show looks like it came straight out of 1977, giving it a wonderfully nostalgic feel. Even the color and grain of the talk show footage has a distinctly vintage look. Then, of course, there is the marvelous costume design the only adds to the 70’s vibes. Examining the horror side of the film, the filmmakers primarily stuck to simplistic practical effects, with perhaps just a dash of CGI, in keeping with the tone and look of the plot. The scares mostly come down to makeup effects, flashing lights, and hovering furniture, but what is achieved looks great and creates some memorable frights.

Late Night With the Devil is a hilarious, nostalgic 70’s romp with supernatural bite. The Cairnes Brothers managed to create a film that is unique, fun, and is a horror film that uses humor in a way that is sure to appeal to a wider audience. Dastmalchian gives an incredible performance, carrying most of the film on his capable shoulders, and proves that he can and should be the leading man. The care that went into crafting this film and making it look and feel just like the beloved talk shows of the 70’s helps to make this film a joy to watch. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing film with a perfect blend of humor, camp, dread, and scares, then look no further than Late Night With the Devil.


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