Jack Delroy’s (David Dastmalchian) career is on the way out. He’s been a successful midnight-hour variety talk show host for most of the 1970s, but has never managed to top the viewing numbers of Johnny Carson. Worse still, his wife Madeline (Georgina Haig) has recently succumbed to cancer, the show’s ratings are flagging, it’s ‘sweeps week’, and in a last ditch attempt to get viewer’s eyeballs back on his channel, they stage an edgy occult-themed Halloween special. With guests including psychics, sceptics, paranormal experts, and possessed children, Delroy may or may not be opening the gates to hell itself, live on TV.

Directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes‘ new film, Late Night With the Devil, is a delightfully dark diamond in the rough. Filmed in the style of a found-footage horror, the movie purports itself to be a documentary, showing the footage of the fateful night in question, including black and white behind the scenes footage giving insight into the troubled production on set. It’s brilliantly realised with that slightly cheesy talk show style captured in a notably crisp, but authentically 70s style colour palette, shot in classic TV 4:3 full frame. It’s a solid commitment to the vibe, and praise should be given all round to how well the look and feel is realised throughout the movie.

Dastmalchian is absolutely on form, proving again that he has fast become one of the most notable character actors currently working. It’s a layered and subtle performance, as he swings between the glitzy cheeky TV smarm and charm, and the more unguarded twitches of emotion and subtle stresses playing on his face. The rest of the cast support admirably, with particularly great work from Ian Bliss, as Carmichael Haig, an infuriatingly cynical and patronising ex-magician turned professional debunker, and Rhys Auteri as Gus, Delroy’s long suffering band leader and comedy straight-man. Everyone is bringing their A-game, not only giving it their all, but even moving and walking in a truly period style that never feels less than authentic.

But most striking and revelatory is the uncannily creepy turn of relative newcomer Ingrid Torelli as Lilly, a child saved from a satanic cult, through whom Delroy wants to channel the demon Abraxas as part of the show’s finale. Torelli manages to capture the light-hearted cheerfulness of a ’70s child actor, but with a predatory detachment, often staring unblinking directly into the camera, in an unsettling and weirdly threatening manner.

While it’s definitely a solid and captivating film, it’s something of a slow burn to get started. The opening introductory sequence (narrated chillingly by Michael Ironside) drags on almost a full 10 minutes and feels like exposition that could have perhaps been better worked into the film, much of it feeling quite irrelevant until very late in the movie. The adherence to the TV show format also clunks a little early on, as the opening act with Christou (Fayassal Bazzi) as a Uri Geller-esque psychic feels a little slow. What’s more, the behind the scenes moments never quite feel ‘real’ as, despite some shots of the BTS cameramen in the background throughout, it’s odd to have Delroy and his producer Leo (Josh Quong Tart) discussing supposedly private matters with a camera being waved unnoticed mere inches away from their faces. 

Aside from these minor quibbles, by the midpoint and further, as the film builds to its crescendo, the particulars of the staging can be put aside as everything spirals into a grand guignol of mayhem and horror. As everything descends into absolute insanity, the film sticks to its guns, and keeps many of the effects practical, with what few digital effects are used in keeping with those of the period. It’s absolutely a ride, and a baffling choice that this film wasn’t dropped around October, as it’s destined to become staple Halloween viewing for horror fans everywhere. It’s impossible not to recommend this film most highly to those horror fans; this is one devil it’s worth staying up late for.

As an addendum, it’s worth noting that there has been an unfortunate minor online hullabaloo regarding the use of AI-generated imagery used to initially create the basis for three commercial-break logo cards during the film. It’s a minor issue, commented on elsewhere by the creators. As the related images make up less than 10 seconds of the film’s running time and are substantially irrelevant and don’t impact the story, they have been ignored as to the qualitative and artistic evaluation of this review. That said, with current feelings in this regard being highly emotive to many, it would be remiss not to at least mention this situation.

In cinemas nationwide now