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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

“Late Night With the Devil” review: An on air horror classic long after the broadcast

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“Late Night With the Devil” is a demonic delight that possesses audiences with a fresh take on the found footage trope and worms its way into the heart of any horror fan. From the slightly campy 1970s setting to the cultural commentary on occult obsession contrasted by critiques of media success to gruesomely interesting paranormal effects, the film leaves you hypnotized by its ability to balance style and substance. This truly is a horror movie that feels like it was meant to be found, not just made.

The film follows fictional late-night television host Jack Delroy, played by DePaul alumni David Dastmaclhian, during his 1977 Halloween broadcast of “Night Owls With Jack Delroy.” While Delroy tries to boost his show’s ratings against competitors like Johnny Carson, his attempts to shock audiences with paranormal guests and an on-air exorcism turn a night of spooky celebration into a terrifying supernatural tale. 

The real spellbinding power of “Late Night With the Devil” lies in its artful ability to slowly blur the line between spectator and spectacle. The terror builds over the 93-minute runtime through a hauntingly effective mix of documentary-style introductions, fictional found footage and traditional scene cuts. Even when the plot is laid bare in the first five minutes, giving you all the context you need to know exactly what happens next, you’re glued to your chair hoping the ending isn’t as predictably deadly. 

What makes the movie effective is that the tragedy lies in this documentary setup. Broadcast history was made in 1977; now you have to watch the inevitable unfold in real-time. With this, the energy in the theater is palpable. Audiences grapple with the images on their television screens without the ability to snatch the remote and change the channel before the show gets bloody. 

The only reprieve in the wonderfully tense narrative is the charismatic performance of Dastmalchian, ready to ease his live studio audience and those sitting in the movie theater today with a winning smile and lighthearted transition to a commercial break. Dastmalchian’s on-screen presence grounds the story in some version of reality and keeps the viewer immersed in its period setting. In between the horror and dramatic elements, Delroy is the glue that binds the genres together through a well-rounded and fatally flawed character. 

It’s impossible to praise this film’s creative spin on horror without also acknowledging the questionable real-life implications of its use of artificial intelligence generated art. During the live broadcast segments of the film, the found footage cuts to 70s stylized title cards in lieu of actual commercial breaks. Directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes explained that they experimented with three title cards created by AI, which were then edited further and used in the film. While the addition may not be noticeable for some viewers, others have begun review bombing the movie on audience-facing platforms like Letterboxd in protest of AI’s place in the film industry. 

“Late Night With the Devil” is for the horror fan looking to scratch the indie film itch that horror-centric studios like Blumhouse Production — which recently produced movies like “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” “Imaginary” and “Halloween Ends” — can no longer satisfy. Even with AI haunting it’s otherwise genius storytelling, the film still reigns as a future Halloween classic. The artistry of its horrifying plot and cinematic execution jumps off the screen, letting the story creep around the edges of your mind and raise the hairs on the back of your neck long after the broadcast ends. The film opened at the Music Box Theatre March 22 and has limited showings at select theaters across the city.

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