Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (2024)

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Late Night with the Devil

  • Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (1)
  • Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (2)

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Horror-comedy Late Night with the Devil (now streaming on Shudder and AMC+) had a strong opening for an IFC Films release, grossing $2.8 million in its opening weekend. Notably, it made $666,666 on that Sunday, prompting Variety to report “you can’t make this up,” although I’d assert that you very much CAN make that stuff up, especially if a film company’s marketing and PR departments are reporting the numbers. Anyway, Aussie sibling directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes did what few people are brave enough to do: They made modern cinema’s du-jour character actor, David Dastmalchian, their lead, playing a 1970s late-night talk show host who’s desperate for ratings, and therefore lets his live Halloween broadcast fly way off the rails. That makes for “good TV,” especially if you’re peddling satire, but does the premise make for a good movie? Let’s find out.


The Gist: We hear Michael Ironside’s voice, and it is indeed foreboding. (It’s accompanied, appropriately, by the music of one obscure heavy metal band called Pentagram, to which I say, nice.) Ironside’s giving us a brief history of Jack Delroy (Dastmalchian), aka “Mr. Midnight,” and his late-night talk show Night Owls. The show launched in 1971, aiming to take down Johnny Carson. Seems like a fool’s errand, but whatever – you gotta dream big. It went pretty well for a while, landing Delroy an Emmy nomination and a five-year contract extension. By 1977, though, things looked less rosy. Ratings plateaued. None of the Emmy nods became Emmy wins. Delroy’s beloved wife died of lung cancer. He was rumored to be involved with a weird cabal of men who occasionally gathered in the woods to perform arcane occult rituals and such. And then – dum dum DUMMMM – it was Sweeps Week, you know, the time when ratings counted the most and TV series were canceled or renewed. Such drama!

And this is when the fateful Night Owls broadcast occurred. Thus, the gimmick: What we’re about to see is the long-lost unedited master tape of the show, which aired live on Oct. 31, 1977, and “shocked the nation.” Delroy takes the stage for his monologue of lame jokes and banter with his sidekick Gus (Rhys Auteri), then cheekily asks his audience to “keep an open mind” with regards to the evening’s slate of guests: A psychic medium, a magician-slash-skeptic and a parapsychologist. This seems like all the ordinary dopey stuff of era-specific talk shows. So far, so good.

Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) takes the stage and does his I’m-sensing-a-name-that-starts-with-P cornball scam-shtick, and all goes OK, but there’s a weird incident when his eyes roll back in his head and the lights flicker and crackle. As they say, curious. Then the skeptic, Carmichael the Conjurer (Ian Bliss), joins the show, and he can explain all paranormal phenomena in rational terms, which is admirable, but our ideological loyalty to him disintegrates when he ends up being a smug, pompous ass and serial condescendypants. Something ain’t right with Christou, and he projectile-spews black sludge all over Carmichael, who instantly insists it’s just an old vaudeville trick. Then, the guests du jour arrive, Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her ward, a teenager named Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), who survived a Satanic mass suicide and also acts very oddly, possibly because she claims to be possessed by an evil demon. “‘Psychic infestation’ is the term we prefer,” Dr. June says, and it’s only a matter of time before Delroy coerces her to demonstrate said “psychic infestation” to the live TV audience out there. Seems like a terrible idea but great TV, and what rules over all in this reality? Ratings, baby! Or Satan. Is there a difference?

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (3)

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: This is kinda like The Exorcist meets The Morton Downey Jr. Show.

Performance Worth Watching: It’s easy to like Dastmalchian’s portrayal of a desperate TV host who seems both incredibly vulnerable but also immune to flop sweat – an impressive balancing act.

Memorable Dialogue: Delroy: “Ladies and gentlemen, please stay tuned for a live television first, as we attempt to commune with the devil. But not before a word from our sponsors.”

Sex and Skin: None.

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (4)

Our Take: The message of Late Night with the Devil is kinda Old Testament: Thou shalt not worship false idols. And is there a bigger false idol than the ol’ boob tube? Yeah, especially in the social media age, so we need to think bigger, so we land on media itself, or the shiny bauble that media dangles in front of people, fame, which is false as all hell, pun totally intended. Not that the film is entirely focused on this theme. It stays firmly in the Satire Zone, and gets a little spoofy about the post-Manson/pre-Satanic Panic period of pop-cultural occultism and lampoons the schmaltzy entertainment of the post-variety-show/pre-David-Letterman era of chitchat TV. (Is it me, or is trotting out psychic mediums sub-bottom-of-the-barrel entertainment?)

The film shows evidence of needing another draft in the writers’ room – the quasi-found-footage structure is as inconsistent as the wobbly archer-shots at thematic targets. There are moments when the Delroy character could use more focus, but Dastmalchian nevertheless endures and endears; when Torelli turns up to creep out the audience by staring directly into the camera with unsettlingly aggressive friendliness, she gooses the film to life for its final act. As for the ending, it’s surprisingly challenging, or it doesn’t make much sense, take your pick. But the Cairnses maintain an uneasy comic tone throughout, and the proliferation of goo from their impressively throwbacky practical effects helps spackle over any script problems. We nitpick because we must, but bottom line, Late Night with the Devil is a consistently funny and entertaining horror-comedy with at least a little bit of something on its mind.

Our Call: [Presses fingers to temples, closes eyes in concentration] I’m… I’m sensing… an “S” word… is there an “S” around here anywhere… soup… stoop… steam… stream… STREAM IT.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • horror comedy
  • Late Night with the Devil
  • Shudder
  • Stream and Scream
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Late Night with the Devil’ on Shudder, an amusing high-concept horror-comedy starring David Dastmalchian (2024)


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