Watched: Late Night With the Devil

I’ve got more blogging I’d like to do sometime soon about some of my projects that I’ve been working on (namely, learning game development in the Godot game engine) but I thought I’d quickly jot down some thoughts I had after watching Late Night with the Devil (2023) starring David Dastmalchian.

I used to consider myself a wuss when it came to horror films; as a child, my mother would jump and scream at jump scares whenever my parents watched movies, and this scared me more than the movie did, probably. I am still not a fan of jump scares, but luckily, there’s a whole world of horror films out there that don’t resort to cheap stunts for cheap thrills. I mean, a few jump scares here and there are fine; I just cannot stand films that are one-trick ponies in this regard.

That is not what Late Night is. It’s a low budget period film, set on a 1970s talk show set, that uses a light touch with its found footage/documentary concept. The main thing selling the period is the costuming and hair styles, along with some period jokes. The film doesn’t take the made-for-TV visual aesthetic too far — just enough to help suspension of disbelief and sell the concept. The behind the scenes stuff during commercial breaks is shot in b&w documentary style, and mostly works, although some of the more intimate conversations seem to ignore the camera to a point that stretches credulity.

Overall, it’s a bit more cerebral than the kinds of slasher/jump-scare movies I grew up with. A talk show host played by Dastmalchian, on Halloween night in 1977, is trying to save his failing show by having on a guest and her handler who claims the young girl is possessed by a demon.

As a child of the 80s and a survivor of the Satanic Panic, the characters, tropes, and ideas here were all familiar and even a bit nostalgic to me. You have the TV psychic ala Uri Geller, and the skeptic stage magician that is basically James Randi dialed up to 11. You have the talk show host sidekick who gets no respect. And there’s a recent death of a wife hanging over the host, giving him some depth to him that he’d lack otherwise. And of course, all is not what it seems, yada yada yada.

It being a horror movie, you can imagine that spooky stuff eventually happens and it’s all sort of silly and sort of thrilling and generally just fun to watch. I never felt scared but I did feel entertained, which these days is rare enough to be worth noting! I don’t expect every film I watch to be a 10 out of 10. Sometimes a low 7 is more than enough to make it worth my time, and that’s the case here.

There’s been much said elsewhere about it’s very minor use of some AI-generated TV title cards in the film. I don’t really have much of an opinion about that except that it’s bad and they shouldn’t do that sort of thing in the future. They’re on the screen for barely any time though, and it’s sad that they detract from an otherwise entertaining movie. They probably could have paid an artist fifty bucks and a credit in the credits to do the same thing. A lot has been made about the budget of this film being something like $1 million or so, but come on. There’s low-budget and there’s stepping in a mine field to pick up a penny. It’s not worth it!

But this film is definitely worth a stream on a rainy night when you don’t have anything better to do.

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