Dread. It’s one of the most complex emotions we can feel because it’s hard to explain other than the word. Tension, you can explain pretty well. Anxiety, also pretty explainable. However, the feeling of dread that pervades throughout Late Night With The Devil is its most powerful tool. Even if you haven’t watched a trailer or seen an image from the movie before sitting down, the opening frame of the film gives you all you need to know. It plants the seed of dread right away, to where you’re expecting it at every turn, but the film takes its sweet time getting there.

What unfolds through an hour and a half in Late Night With The Devil can best be described as found footage, but without the shaky cam bullshit. This isn’t The Blair Witch Project; it’s masquerading as a multi-cam late-night show that was recorded, and the audience is watching some hidden tape of the night’s proceedings. The vibes and feel of the show are spot on if you’ve ever seen clips from the late-night shows of that era. It even comes complete with a Johnny Carson rivalry with Jack Delroy.

It stars David Dastmalchian as Jack, Laura Gordon as June Ross-Mitchell, the psychologist that comes on with Lilly (played by Ingrid Torelli), who was possessed by an ancient evil entity. Jack is joined by his co-host Gus (played by Rhys Auteri) and a skeptic, Carmichael Haig (played by Ian Bliss) who challenges any of the supernatural guests to prove their happenings for $100,000.

Jack’s story is one that takes some twists and turns, even in the introduction (narrated by Michael Ironside). His wife tragically dies of lung cancer and his career takes a tailspin. His comeback hinges on this Halloween show doing massive ratings. There are accusations of a shadowy wilderness, club of powerful men that Jack belongs to. All of it adds up and builds to this one night in 1977.

Late Night With The Devil takes an already dynamite premise and adds to it an all-time performance from David Dastmalchian. As the film goes along, he’s basically playing two characters. The real Jack Delroy, who is terrified of what is transpiring on this show, and the one for the cameras. As the events get more and more shocking, that barrier between the two breaks away showing off what the real man looks like.

About two thirds of the way through the film, Carmichael Haig’s skepticism rears its head and worms (all puns intended) its way into the audience. There’s an ingenious scene that nearly shatters the entire feeling of the film. Luckily, the third act turns the gas up to 10, the burners go on full blast, and what we get is a visual feast of chaos, making you question the entire film.

Late Night With The Devil David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy looks at guests on his show.

I’ll just get this out of the way. Yes, the film uses AI created art for some of the cutaways and coming back from commercial breaks. No, they’re not in the film for longer than 10 combined seconds. The use of AI art over actual artists is disgusting, but this film was also made before we had protections in place for artists. It is not worth exploding over or boycotting the film that many people worked hard on. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it doesn’t take away from the brilliance of this film.

With that out of the way, Late Night With The Devil is one of the most inventive and creative horror films of the year so far. It captures the feeling of those old late-night shows before everything was homogenized into the style we have today. This is a tale of a man hell-bent on becoming number one, that he sacrifices his own sanity. This all builds to a conclusion that leaves the turmoil and aftermath up to the audience. You’ll be thinking about this one for days, weeks, and perhaps months after you see it.

We don’t get many films that stick to their guns when it comes to building tension and allowing a film just to breathe. Let the tension build, take some off, let it build again, and then hammer the audience with shocking imagery. That shocking imagery isn’t for cheap scares, though. The best thing that Late Night With The Devil does is make you think a cheap jump scare is coming, and it never does. The terror is all in that sense of dread.

Armed with a future all-time performance from David Dastmalchian, Late Night With The Devil is exquisite.

Late Night With The Devil releases in theaters on March 22nd and on Shudder on April 18th.

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