peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 04 26 LateNightWithTheDevil

Late Night With the Devil (2023)

/noise/movies | Link

After a promising retro intro we're served up a homage to generic horror tropes and 1970s late night talk shows. There's an excess of derivative style and nothing to suspend disbelief. The sales pitch is The Blair Witch Project realism but Australian writer/directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes don't have the guts (or is it brains?) to run with it. This causes a fatal loss of momentum in the final twenty minutes or so and incongruities from about the halfway mark. The central concept, that this is found footage, is unsound: they cannot show us the fake and the real if the camera never lies, and too often things are shot from an angle that can have nothing to do with the TV production or a putative behind-the-scenes operator. It's a view of nothing new from nowhere.

The cast all don American accents but appear to be Australian apart from lead David Dastmalchian. It's a slick production in the mode of TV; exactly what Philip Brophy trashed in a discussion with Jason Di Rosso recently. (I did not rate Brophy's derision while listening but watching this was a rueful corrective.) The framing suggested it'd be closer to The Ring, with some fallout in the exurbs... like Brophy's Body Melt.

Alissa Wilkinson observed the flaws and references but still found a way to hammer the marketing. Jared Richards, similarly. Christos Tsiolkas, similarly, but how on Earth did he find this "genuinely frightening"? Anxiety and fear but no terror. At least Matt Zoller Seitz remains as skeptical as Roger Ebert. Many critics decry the use of AI-generated imagery.