Decent found-footage horror: ‘Late Night With the Devil’ works thanks to its talk-show twist

I hate found-footage horror movies. A couple of them have been OK, but The Blair Witch Project was overrated, while Paranormal Activity tried to mine scares from sheets moving around by themselves.

In short, the whole concept just doesn’t work for me. No narrative would truly hold together in found footage, and that always bothers me with these damn things: They never really play like an authentic documentary.

That said, Late Night With the Devil offers a unique twist that works … well, it works most of the time. Sometimes, it’s too narratively perfect and convenient, and I once again find myself getting taken out of the movie and finding the whole thing silly to a fault.

In the future, a narrator does a callback to an episode of a 1970s talk show with a mildly talented host, Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian), who needs some ratings. The narrator lets us know that Delroy had recently lost his wife and used to occasionally hang out in the woods with a strange secret society; Satan may or may not have been involved.

The narrator (the voice of actor Michael Ironside) then basically says, “Let’s watch what happened on that crazy night in the late ’70s,” and then we see the show as it unfolded, with some added “backstage” footage.

The show itself—a cross between The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and maybe a little bit of Larry Sanders—starts simple enough, but gradually devolves into an on-air appearance by a possessed young girl (Ingrid Torelli) that goes very wrong. The possession results in a special-effects extravaganza that looks cool, but maybe doesn’t match up so well with the overall quasi-documentary look and vibe of the film.

When it was all over, I was left thinking, “That was OK.” I didn’t come close to loving it, but Dastmalchian is cool as Jack; Torelli does possession well; and the film has enough goofy fun to overcome its shortcomings. It isn’t scary, but it does get sort of disturbing at times, and the gore quotient is pretty high.

Even with its flaws, Late Night With the Devil is now one of the better found-footage horror films. It’s not convincing as a documentary, but its attempt to do something a little original in a done-to-death genre is entertainingly admirable.

Late Night With the Devil is available via various streaming services.

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