This new horror movie with a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score is today’s answer to cult classic Ghostwatch

 Late Night with the Devil.
Late Night with the Devil.

Do not adjust your television sets – new horror movie Late Night with the Devil has arrived and yes, it’s just as good as that perfect Rotten Tomatoes score suggests it is. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it has restored my faith in the found footage genre.

Now, that’s not to say that there haven’t been excellent films in the sub-genre over the past decade or so. In fact, most recently director Rob Savage’s 2020 viral pandemic hit Host thrilled with its spooky Zoom seance gone wrong – a simple premise that was brilliantly executed. However, that’s a rare jewel that shines brightly within a crowded market, with many filmmakers drawn to found footage as it allows them room to experiment within smaller budget parameters. It’s hard to pull off though, with the majority of directors being overly reliant on cheap tricks audiences have long grown bored of, from static on the screen to jump scares.

It’s therefore about time a film came in to shake things up, bringing back the imagination and electric energy found footage movies were once famous for. Enter Late Night with the Devil, which manages to make its mark and excite audiences by turning to the past.

Hello 'Night Owls'

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy in Late Night with the Devil
David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy in Late Night with the Devil

Written and directed by Australian siblings Cameron and Colin Cairnes, the new film stars David Dastmalchian (Oppenheimer, Dune, The Suicide Squad) as presenter Jack Delroy, the host of ‘70s late-night talk show Night Owls. During an episode broadcast on Halloween 1977, Delroy invites parapsychologist Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) onto the show alongside teenager Lilly (Ingrid Torelli) who is the sole survivor of a Satanic church’s mass suicide. As expected, events take a turn for the worse.

Presented as a rediscovered master tape of the notorious episode, it feels like we are watching an actual talk show in real time as Delroy presents the spooky special.

Segments include an interview with skeptical magician Carmichael Hunt (Ian Bliss), mystic Christou (Fayssal Bazzi) doing readings for the audience, and there’s even an in-house band providing mini sketches as comic relief. Watching it brings to mind the 1992 cult favorite Ghostwatch, which surely also must have been on the Cairnes brothers’ brains while making their new horror. It can’t be a coincidence that early on in Ghostwatch presenter Michael Parkinson refers to the audience as “night owls”, which is also the name of Delroy’s show in this new film.

Just like Late Night with the Devil, BBC’s Ghostwatch is also presented as a live television show, this time focusing on paranormal ongoings at a house on the fictional Foxhill Drive. There was even a telephone number you could ring to share your ghost stories, with the BBC receiving an incredible one million calls to their switchboard on the night of the broadcast, as many viewers believed what they were witnessing was real thanks to the film’s sharp execution.

Demonic TV

The cast of Ghostwatch
The cast of Ghostwatch

However, while the two films share this critical DNA, Late Night with the Devil decides to ratchet things up several notches, expanding upon the idea for a new era and a modern audience who have already borne witness to countless Ghostwatch tributes over the years. This film couldn’t just be Ghostwatch 2.0, it had to do something strikingly different.

Arguably it does this best with its cuts to commercials. With Ghostwatch coming from the BBC there are no ad breaks, but Night Owls is an American TV show so there are plenty. The filmmakers could have potentially shot fake adverts to fill these gaps, therefore not breaking away from the live TV show format, but instead we have scenes presented in black-and-white that show how the tension is unraveling whilst the microphones are off.

Giving us this glimpse behind the scenes adds another layer to the drama, as Delroy and the Night Owls team become increasingly strained both on and off set. Arguments during advertisements help fuel the on-screen theatrics and we also learn critical information about our host which foreshadows the horrific reveals that are to come. As Delroy and his aggressive producer keep pushing for the episode to continue despite the increasingly traumatic events – in a desperate attempt to increase the show’s ranking of course – we too feel the pressure, with this secondary perspective proving to be critical when it comes to escalating the drama.

Going all in

Late Night with the Devil (2023)
Late Night with the Devil (2023)

And this episode of Night Owls is seriously dramatic, coming complete with death and a possession – which really is just the start of the spooky shenanigans. The scares hit a level Ghostwatch wasn’t interested in which instead took a more subtle approach. Where that film used tactics such as hiding its ghost in the background of shots, Late Night with the Devil sees its characters doing everything from levitating to pulling worms out of their bodies thanks to some rather impressive practical effects.

It all builds to a surreal, wild, and extreme finale which sees the Cairnes brothers’ go all in. This bold climax isn’t something that would ever have worked for Ghostwatch, but is not only pulled off beautifully here, it feels right for a film that aims to escalate the ideas the 1992 classic introduced to our screens.

These fireworks certainly make an impression and provide a spark that the found footage sub-genre has long been searching for. By looking back at a classic like Ghostwatch and expanding upon that brilliant concept, Late Night with the Devil has paved the way for an exciting future. What this thrilling film shows is that reinvention is the way forward, not repetition - hopefully this is the lesson other filmmakers learn here.

Late Night with the Devil releases in US theaters and UK cinemas from March 22, with previews from March 19.

For more chilling films coming your way, stay up to date with our guide to the most exciting upcoming horror movies to watch out for.