A live television broadcast on Halloween 1977 goes horribly wrong, as all hell literally breaks loose. This pitch perfect period recreation serves up an equal mix of 70s showbiz cheese and demonic thrills.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Directed by Aussie genre mavericks Cameron and Colin Cairnes (100 Bloody Acres, Scare Campaign), Late Night with the Devil delves into the spooky unpredictability of live broadcasts by offering a long-suppressed master tape of an infamous episode of American television. Set in the 1970s, the film follows charismatic late-night host Jack Delroy (genre iconoclast David Dastmalchian), who in an effort to boost the ratings of his once hugely popular “Night Owls”, has invited an eerie tableau of guests for his Hail Mary of an occult-focused Halloween broadcast. His guests include a spirit medium, an ex-magician turned sceptic and finally a parapsychologist and her infamous patient, the lone survivor of a satanic cult who claims to be intermittently possessed by the Devil.
The Cairnes bros skilfully recreate the aesthetics and atmosphere of 70s late night TV, immersing viewers in a bygone era of collective viewership, interspersed with fourth wall breaks revealing behind-the-scenes theatrics and tension. Drawing inspiration from historical incidents like Christine Chubbuck's live suicide and the BBC’s infamous Ghostwatch. Funny, scary and even poignant, the film expertly incorporates elements of the satanic panic, dark magic and the lingering influence of The Exorcist. It all culminates in creating one hell of an eerie midnight movie experience. Occasional deviations from the “lost master tape" premise aside, the film remains a thought-provoking and enigmatic thriller that lingers in the mind, leaving viewers intrigued about what transpires beyond the camera's view. — Ant Timpson