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Late Night with the Devil is a spooky good time

Filmmaking siblings Cameron and Colin Cairne deliver the first great horror film of 2024 with "Late Night with the Devil" from IFC Films. The duo wrote and directed the film, taking a found-footage approach. Taking place October 31, 1977, "Late Night with the Devil" introduces us to a Johnny Carson rival named Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), who hosts a syndicated late-night talk show, 'Night Owls, ' that has long been a trusted companion to insomniacs around the country.

A year after the tragic death of Jack's wife Madeleine Delroy (Georgina Haig), ratings have plummeted. In a valiant attempt to alter his unfavorable circumstances, Jack strategically designs an exceptional Halloween special distinct from its predecessors. He orchestrates a unique episode scheduled for Halloween night in 1977 that encompasses the presence of distinguished individuals who are renowned experts within the paranormal domain.

The guest list includes Christou (Fayssal Bazzi), an acclaimed psychic; Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), formerly known as a magician and presently recognized for his skepticism; and Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon), resolute on emphasizing her latest literary piece titled 'Conversation with the Devil.' Accompanied by these prominent figures is young Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), lauded for surviving a grotesque ritualistic suicide orchestrated by satanic followers- an incident still deeply engrained within public memory. Unbeknownst to Jack's innocent intentions lies a potentially catastrophic consequence - the inadvertent dissemination of malevolent forces into unsuspecting American households.

Since the massive successes of "The Blair Witch Project" twenty-five years ago, many horror filmmakers have tried to break into the industry using the found footage approach. Most times, the results don't land, but thankfully, the creative team behind "Late Night with the Devil" takes a different approach. Initiating with a haunting voice narration by Michael Ironside, the creators meticulously introduce spectators to the eclectic design and variegated blueprint of 1970s talk shows in superb detail. The storyline artfully unfolds amid recollections, video excerpts, and segments captured backstage on set.

In achieving this, the Cairnes brothers successfully infuse 'Late Night with the Devil' with a veneer of faux-documentary authenticity while simultaneously constructing fitting suspense through their gradual unveiling of an enigmatic ensemble cast's particulars. After years of supporting work, David Dastmalchian steps up for a lead role and is more than up to the task.

The character actor, embodying an aura of confident bravado reminiscent of a bygone Casanova, remains unflinching in eliciting the cooperation of his colleagues on the program. Assisting him is the producer who, metaphorically speaking, adopts the role of a pint-sized malevolent entity guiding you from your shoulder. His unwavering determination to ascend the ladder of success catalyzes procuring maximum viewership for their unique Halloween feature. This commitment stands resolute even when facing challenges that hint at incipient adversaries.

The rest of the cast, mostly unknowns, also delivers solid performances. "Late Night with the Devil" is a horror film that I advise viewers to go into as blind as possible. The film triumphantly steers clear of found-footage clichés while artistically saluting the 1970s for a delightfully spooky journey.

Final Grade: A

"Late Night with the Devil" opens in theaters on March 22 and will be available on Shudder for Streaming on April 19.


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