Australian filmmaking duo and real-life brothers Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes have devised something truly groundbreaking here. Their latest film, Late Night with the Devil, takes place almost entirely on the stage of a television talk show. But this mock-doc-styled narrative is designed in a way where it takes subtle digs into corporate culture and the obsession with fame while giving us a reason why horror can be just as fun as anything else — making this outing feel like a truly well-meaning addition to the movies we will watch and rewatch during Halloween.
The film introduces us to the talk show host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), whose once famous show ‘Night Owls’ has taken a hit and is no more the rating darling. In its intelligently placed and truly campy prologue, the movie gives us a brief history of what we are about to witness and the recently discovered tape featuring the finale episode aired on October 31st, 1977. Using the found footage sub-genre over a meta mockumentary-themed narration makes the opening set the tone right.
We are introduced to the main players, Delroy aside, there’s co-host Gus (Rhys Auteri), who has been suffering as the main host resorts to cheap tactics to compete with the networks’ requirement of viewership. We also get to know that one of the tricks involved Delroy inviting his stage-four cancer-ridden wife for one of his episodes. After her death, his rating took a huge nosedive leading him to supposedly take refuge in a break that involved joining a cult.
All this info is laid bare as a mere setup for the Night Owls episode that would put Delroy on the map. The Halloween special has him first invite Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) – a medium who talks to spirits, only to be debunked by his second guest – the arrogant Carmichael Hunt (Ian Bliss), who is a professional skeptic. The final guest of the evening is paranormal psychiatric June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon), who is accompanied by Lily D’Abo (Ingrid Torelli) – a survivor of a cult who was apparently the subject of her book Conversation of the Devil.
The episode opens smoothly until one minor incident leads to another, and more mistakes lead toward cataclysmic chaos that co-joins the supernatural with the surreal. Late Night With the Devil takes one detour after another, leading us into a thrilling ride full of surprises. Most of it works, thanks in large parts to the dedicated performances by David Dastmalchian and the surprisingly unhinged performances by the young actor Ingrid Torelli. Additionally, the airy peppering of the supernatural with counterintuitive statements helps keep things interesting.
You are all up for the setup, and the existential dread securing somewhere in the crevices of the host makes us sure and unsure of all that’s happening at the same time. While the single location doesn’t allow the film to inhabit the upper echelon of horror completely, the tone that the director duo is going for never tries to aim that way either.
The constant shift between the aspect ratios and color palette might feel a little jarring – the on-air part of the discovered tape is shown in a finely detailed grainy, monochromatic 70s aesthetic, while the interludes, the commercial breaks, and everything that goes out of the stage is in color. Still, if you settle into it, there’s no way you wouldn’t come out of this Halloween Special having a good time.