Welcome to Primetime: Late Night with the Devil (2023) – review

Melbourne’s Dockland Studios opened in 2004, as a bold artistic representation of the city’s growing ambition to be on the world stage and to claw back some lucrative media position from rival locations. Ghost Rider (2005) was the first major American film shot at the new location and quickly became the highest-grossing film made in the state of Victoria. Twenty years later, the indie horror sensation, Late Night with the Devil utilized Australia’s modest waterfront ‘Hollywood’ to create an authentic and heightened experience for audiences.

October 31st, 1977. Talk show host, Jack Delroy, hopes to silence his critics and end a disastrous year of poor ratings with the annual Halloween episode of his once-popular syndicated program, Night Owls; for which he dares to both explore and challenge the supernatural. Guests include a psychic, a renowned sceptic, and a professional parapsychologist who has brought along a young girl named Lilly, who is allegedly possessed by a violent demon.

As an ode to variety television that dominated the airways during the 1970s, Late Night with the Devil couldn’t be more on point in replicating the style and hokey vibe; with an opening sequence that dramatically acquaints us with Delroy while immersing the viewing into a real-time evening of cult entertainment.

While not a particularly scary movie, there’s a disturbing undercurrent about the fixation on the occult that was rife throughout society at the time, especially in the wake of films like The Exorcist and The Omen. Directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes are students of 70s horror with their use of subliminal messaging and slow-burn storytelling. When things do finally escalate, the obvious use of digital effects tends to break with the previously established mood, yet they also enhance the film’s almost carnival-like aspect, which I really appreciate.

Behind the scenes with Colin Cairnes (left), David Dastmalchian (centre), and Cameron Cairnes (right)

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy, our central figure, and perhaps the catalyst for the events that unfold is a character, who while easy to like, conceals darkness and sorrow, suggesting an ulterior motive. Having lost his wife a year before due to illness, is Delroy hoping this impromptu televised séance will provide him with answers to what’s on the other side? Has he made a deal with Satan? Nevertheless, Dastmalchian’s performance is effective in conveying the weight of these powerful emotions, while holding it together as the public’s charismatic and kind host.

There are several ideas that all collide during the film’s very clumsy ending, and it’s unable to commit to or follow through with any, which unfortunately amounts to an unsatisfying conclusion considering an otherwise fantastic and focused main portion.

Late Night with the Devil is screening nationally in Australia from April 11 – distributed by Umbrella Entertainment and Maslow Entertainment. You can find locations and session times by visiting Flicks.com.au

(2023, director: Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes)



production stills provided by Maslow Entertainment




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