“Late Night with the Devil” is a creative found-footage horror movie that originally premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2023, now debuting to the public in theaters. Directed by Cameron and Colin Cairnes, the movie follows a documentary structure and plays into possession and ritual sacrifice tropes. 

Jack Delroy, played by David Dastmalchain, is a late-night talk show host attempting to gain back ratings to save his program while grieving his wife, who died of an inexplicable cancer. Delroy decides to host a one-of-a-kind Halloween special in 1977, inviting a renowned psychic, a Vegas illusionist turned metaphysical skeptic, and a parapsychologist along with her subject a young girl supposedly possessed by a demon she calls Mr. Wriggles. 

The film’s rising action shows promise as strange paranormal phenomena are caught on camera and witnessed by the live audience. Tensions are high between the guests and hosts of the show, adding to the mounting suspense. There are even hints that Delroy may be involved in a secret cult of the Hollywood elite, suggesting its role in his show’s popularity. 

However, in the last 15 minutes of the movie, the writing devolves into chaos. The promising subplots’ points of intrigue are tied into a jumbled knot rather than a nice bow. It was clear that the writers wanted to create an ending resembling and triggering psychosis, but it was poorly executed. 

The entire film is campy and cut-through with dry humor that is reminiscent of talk-show television of the 1970s, which makes it an entertaining watch despite the shaky plot. The grainy footage, lighting, and general demeanor of the actors when on “set” truly gives a nostalgic taste for a more grubby time of television chock-full of cigar smoke, shag carpet, and at times inappropriate banter.

The film’s aesthetics follow themes of the 1970s and 1980s — political tensions, satanic panic, and the popularity of late-night television. The costuming and hair department truly nailed it with the 70s vibe, transporting the audience back in time. Beautifully set up and shot, the colors and visuals of the movie make for an amazing coffee table book of still images. The found-footage setup is unique in the way that the entire movie is concentrated in one setting: the live set for the fictional “Night Owls with Jack Delroy.” It’s obvious that the entire cast and crew were having fun during the production. 

One of the most notable and redeeming aspects of “Late Night with the Devil” is its use of practical effects, which solidified the idea that the film was set in 1977. It was gory and playful, reminiscent of early horror film effects. I was simultaneously cringing from the gore, and celebrating its cheesiness. 

The largest point of contention about the film is not anything regarding the plot or filming itself, but rather the use of generative AI. The Cairnes claim their use of AI was brief, consisting of only “three still images,” which are used as “interstitials” in the mock show to signify the start or end of a commercial break. However, these AI-generated images, despite claims that they were edited further, were quite obvious to any viewer who knows how to spot AI art. It is truly disappointing that three simple images could detract from a promising film so dramatically – the lack of basic detail in the AI-generated images created inconsistencies with the 70’saesthetic the film crew worked so hard to curate. Many people are upset with thisuse of AI because it takes away work from actual designers who have trained experience creating graphics such as the ones used in the interstitials. If we let these seemingly minimal uses of AI-generated images slide now, what will be permissible in the future? It’s giving “I’m too lazy to pay a graphic artist for three slides,” and many viewers are not here for it. Myself included. 

While the concept of “Late Night with the Devil” showed much promise, only about 70% of the film lived up to said promise. The AI-generated art and basic plot holes took away from the overall experience and enjoyment of the movie. I wouldn’t recommend spending your money on a marked-up ticket price — enjoy the film from the comfort of your own home when it is released to streaming on April 16. 

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