Apr 20, 2024

Mr. Wriggles Goes Prime Time

Late Night With The Devil
IFC Films (2024)
This is a movie that I really wanted to see in theaters.  Unfortunately, it wasn't playing anywhere in my area, but it was made available on Shudder last night and I was finally able to see it.

While I usually think that a theater or drive-in is the best place to see a movie, Late Night With The Devil might be an exception to the rule.  It's set in the late 70's and presented as if it were a late night talk show that you could have watched on television.  If you really want an immersive experience and you have the equipment to do so, the best way to watch this might be to steam it through a Roku box that's hooked up to an old CRT television... unless they release it on VHS.

The movie begins with an eight minute mini-documentary about a 1970's late night talk show host named Jack Delroy.  His program, Night Owls, competes head-to-head with Johnny Carson, but it isn't going too well.  Even on their highest rated show which featured Jack's wife weeks before she died of lung cancer, Carson remained ahead in the ratings.  In 1977, Jack and his producer are hoping to hit a home run with their Halloween night broadcast.

The mini-documentary set up the rest of the movie which is shown as a found footage recording of the master tape from their 1977 Halloween show that was broadcast live on television.  The movie switches to black and white during what would have been the commercial breaks of this program, but it's shot in a way that makes the footage appear to be coming from the studio cameras at all times.

Jack Delroy's guests for this episode include a psychic named Christou, a hypnotist and magician named Carmichael Haig who has turned into a skeptic who works to expose psychics and the paranormal as a fraud, a doctor named June Ross-Mitchell, and a 14 year old girl named Lilly D'Abo who has been possessed by a demon that she refers to as "Mr. Wriggles".

Lilly was rescued from a Satanic cult when she was very young and has since been adopted by Dr. Ross-Mitchell.  The doctor clearly loves Lilly and is conflicted about agreeing to bring her onto the program, but she's also guilty of exploiting the girl for her own gains, as she has published a book called Conversations With The Devil that covers her communications with the demon that lives inside of Lilly.  The show is also exploiting the young girl, as they hope to be the first show to broadcast an actual demonic possession live on television.

This movie is extremely well done!  It's one of the most suspenseful horror movies that I've seen in a long time.  It starts off normal and ordinary, but you know that all hell is going to break loose at any moment, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat looking at every detail for a hint of what might be coming.  The visuals put you in the time and place perfectly, and the performances are convincing to the point where I found myself forgetting for a moment that this isn't actually a tape of a late night talk show.  Ingrid Torelli is absolutely brilliant for her unsettling performance as Lilly.  Even in the moments when it's not clear that she is possessed, her odd speech and facial expressions make you wonder how much of what you're seeing is her and how much is the demon.

Last, and most certainly least, there is a small controversy from a vocal minority about some of the images that were used in this movie.  According to directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, the still images featuring the owl and the skeleton were created using AI software, then given to the artists on the production design team to touch up for use as still images that were on screen to transition the Night Owls show to and from its commercial breaks.

This has resulted in a boycott and review bombing of the film that is so asinine that it makes movie protests from Christian organizations seem almost sane in comparison.  These arguments annoyed me at first, but the more of them I read, the more amusing they became.  Some of what I've read through came from older men and women who quite frankly should know better.  However, the complaints from millennials and younger generations were downright hysterical.  They have no idea that they're experiencing their first Old Man Yells At Cloud moment.  Buckle up junior, because you've got a lot more of these moments coming in your future.

As for myself, I couldn't care less about the fact that they used artificial intelligence, particularly when it's used in a low budget film by an independent filmmaker.  AI is a time saving tool.  It was used to create roughly 10 seconds of footage that was spread out across a 93 minute long movie.  I don't think the movie would have been any better if these images were hand crafted by somebody on Photoshop.  If you want to whine about it and refuse to see an excellent horror flick because of it, knock yourself out, but you're only cheating yourself out of an incredible experience.