Fresh ideas are great but need a script to back them up

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Late Night with the Devil
Shudder and On Demand
2.5 out of 5

Before David Letterman rejuvenated the format, late night talk shows eschewed anything that could be considered weird, quirky or genuinely controversial. Glibness ruled the day and Johnny Carson was the master of the shallow conversation.

The mildly interesting Late Night with the Devil takes this setting and mixes it with the “satanic panic” phenomenon. The result comes across as somewhat original but doesn’t break any new ground.

Tired of losing the late-night ratings wars, Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), invites an allegedly possessed teen to his Halloween episode. Unbeknownst to Delroy and his team of sycophants and charlatans, a true-to-God (so to speak) spotlight-craving evil spirit really is ready for its closeup.

Worth mentioning: this isn’t even THE devil. Just a devil. The big guy would probably want an HBO special or a pay-per-view type of event. Maybe Wrestlemania.

Late Night with the Devil’s strong suit is the setup. Writer/directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes do a solid job recreating the ’70s and ratcheting up the tension, and find a valuable collaborator in David Dastmalchian. Better known for playing odd ducks in blockbusters like The Dark Knight, The Suicide Squad (as the Polka-Dot Man), and even Oppenheimer, Dastmalchian acquits himself well as a slightly off-centre leading man.

Sadly, good buildup doesn’t matter if there’s no payoff. The expected showdown is drawn out and, ultimately, a disappointment. The creative team’s decision to focus on the boilerplate possession story rather than the more interesting TV-show-coming-apart-at-the-seams angle is a mistake. Add bad dialogue to the mix and you have the proverbial horror movie that looks better on paper than on the screen.

Still, as showbiz send-offs go, you could do worse (spoiler- and faint-praise alert).