Late Night with the Devil Review: The Fame Demon

David Dastmalchian in Late Night with the Devil

I first watched Late Night with the Devil at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival. Since its premiere, I have seen it several times.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s time to watch it.

Many films, TV shows, and books focus on tales of sacrificing a soul to the devil. It’s a profound but common story. But Late Night with the Devil depicts this classic story in such a distinct style that it feels fresh and unique.

David Dastmalchian in Late Night with the Devil promo photo
Photo Credit: IFC Films

It continues to consume you long after the credits.

We, the audience, are the problem. We crave bigger and better and beg for entertainment. This makes us another villain in this story.

Our complicated protagonist Jack Delroy, played brilliantly by David Dastmalchian, must continue to push himself all in the name of praise and attention. His festering needs and transactional relationship with the public allow darkness to thrive that night.

Fame is a hell of an obsession.

Late Night with the Devil works best when it explores Jack’s motivations, despair, mental state, and grief. His imperfections and crippling ambitions are what makes him a compelling character.

His complex persona is another brilliant homage to the era.

Late Night with the Devil starring David Dastmalchian
Photo Credit: IFC Films

The 70s is a very distinct time in film and television history. Part of the landscape of visual media in this decade includes protagonists that aren’t idyllic. Travis Bickle, Jake Gittes, Harry R. Caul, and Sonny Wortzik became more appealing than picture-perfect main characters.

Jack isn’t a good guy but he isn’t a bad one either. He’s a fully formed human with flaws. These faults just happen to put him in a potentially deadly battle with a demon.

Late Night with the Devil excels most in recreating the 70s.

Set in 1977, it captures both popular culture and the dark underbelly of cults, devil worship, and the rise of possession movies. It also nearly flawlessly paints an accurate picture of the late-night television world in that era.

Dastmalchian masterfully makes Jack both specific and general. You can clearly pinpoint how he’s a generic late-night host type but also the specific Jack Delroy charm and personality issues.

You’d easily tune in every night to watch Night Owls.

Ingrid Torelli in Late Night with the Devil
(c) IFC Films

Ian Bliss is equally enthralling as Carmichael, a former magician turned skeptic. You hate the guy but would probably lean more towards his beliefs than Jack and June’s claims.

We know Late Night with the Devil is a horror movie, so we expect horror but Carmichael convinces you at different points that it may be all an allusion. That’s the fun of this film. Is any of it real?

The audience is partially accountable for the darkness that unfolds on this night and captivated by it.

Ingrid Torelli officially joins the young stars to watch out for club with her performance as Lily in the movie. She’s fantastically creepy.

The type of child who would haunt your nightmares.

The film subtly dives into Jack’s drive and motivations. He’s only a victim of the events of that night because he first embraces and welcomes them.

Ingrid Torei, David Dastmalchian, and Laura Gordon in Late Night with the Devil

These horrific events only occur because his drive for success outweighs everything else, including his love for his wife.

The audience, the Night Owls viewers, are somewhat at fault for how they encourage this type of sensationalism. They reward him with ratings for pushing the boundaries, for bleeding for them.

Late Night with the Devil works because style and substance equally shine. However, style surpasses substance a little.

The setting and how it’s filmed really feel like late-night talk shows. This helps suspend reality. You really can become so engrossed in the story that it’s believable that you’re watching lost tapes of a strange event in pop culture.

The introduction of June and Lily also immediately makes you compare Late Night with the Devil to classic 70s horror films, such as The Exorcist. The Exorcist is a clear inspiration for this movie but it’s done in such a cool way that it doesn’t feel like a cheap rip-off.

It respectfully pays clever homage to it.

Laura Gordon and David Dastmalchian in Late Night with the Devil

This horror future classic grabs the audience from the first frame and doesn’t let go. It’s engaging and expertly captures the era and the pitfalls and greatness of the late-night television battles. There are a lot of horror movies, but not nearly enough that entertain, create interesting story discourse, creep you out, and have depth.

Late Night with the Devil is one of those rare additions to the genre that shows horror movies’ capacity for thrilling storytelling.

Full of great performances and smart stylistic choices, the film is one of the most exciting recent horror films. Late Night with the Devil isn’t the scariest horror film of all time but a fascinating story about ambition, loss, and what we sacrifice for fame (or infamy).

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Late Night with the Devil is available to stream on Shudder.

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