Late Night with the Devil review: Satan communes through a 1970s chatshow in Cairnes brothers’ fun, freaky horror

The period TV set is so convincing that one expects the host to shout ‘Roll it there, Colette’

Late Night with the Devil
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Director: Colin Cairnes, Cameron Cairnes
Cert: 16
Genre: Horror
Starring: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Ingrid Torelli, Rhys Auteri
Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins

David Dastmalchian is a versatile talent with a terrific face for cinema. So far the directors Michel Franco, Sam Taylor-Johnson, James Gunn and Christopher Nolan have cast him in Chronic, A Million Little Pieces, The Suicide Squad and Oppenheimer. Denis Villeneuve worked with Dastmalchian on Prisoners and Dune. Late Night with the Devil gives him the Rupert Pupkin-sized role he deserves.

With a nod to The Conjuverse’s revival of spooky and groovy period detail, the fun, freaky feature from the Australian siblings Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes takes place on the 1970s chatshow circuit. Lagging behind such muscular competitors as Johnny Carson, Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian), an embattled late-night host, fronts the Halloween special of Night Owls. An audience dressed in Halloween costumes, including a recalcitrant skeleton, look on as Jack welcomes a medium, a parapsychologist (Laura Gordon) and a harrumphing sceptic (Ian Bliss) on stage.

The act of Christou the psychic (Fayssal Bazzi) goes wrong early and often. No amount of carnage, however, can deter Jack from chasing ratings with an on-air demonstration featuring a demonically possessed teenager (Ingrid Torelli) who was the sole survivor of a satanic church’s mass suicide.

Late Night with the Devil is at its best when it colours within the lines of the found-footage genre. An extended prologue introducing Jack and his late wife, Madeleine, feels like a cheat and undermines the real-life 1979 broadcast pitch. No matter. The veteran production designer Otello Stolfo (Where the Wild Things Are) and the costumer designer Steph Hooke conjure a period TV set so convincing that one expects the host to shout, “Roll it there, Colette.” A convincingly beige colour grade and analogue glitches complete the look. The blood-splattering effects, mostly practical and in-camera, scream out for a packed cinema.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic