10 Apr 2024

New horror film Late Night With the Devil opens to critical buzz

From Afternoons, 3:10 pm on 10 April 2024

Since his debut as The Joker's schizophrenic sidekick in The Dark Knight, David Dastmalchian has shown an aptitude for scaring movie-goers.

Now the American actor is getting rave reviews for his lead role in the low-budget horror flick Late Night with the Devil.

Late Night With The Devil

Late Night With The Devil Photo: ©IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Late Night with the Devil opens in New Zealand cinemas this week.

In Late Night with the Devil, Dastmalchian plays the low-rating TV talk show host Jack Delroy who dips into the occult for a Halloween night special.

Australian brothers Cameron and Colin Cairnes, who directed the film, sent Dastmalchian a "lookbook" for the film when they offered him the role but initially, he had doubts.

“It wasn't because it was an indie. It wasn't because there was not a lot of money on the project or anything like that. The reason why was because I didn't think I had it in my bones as an actor to bring [the character] to life authentically enough, to be convincing to an audience, [to deliver] the energy needed for a late-night talk show host. That scared me more than the first time I saw The Omen or The Shining or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “

Nevertheless, Dastmalchian tells Jesse Mulligan he walked towards the fear.

“Some of the most important things I've done in my life, including the partners that I've chosen, being a parent, the career path that I've chosen is when I'm really scared of something and it's not just intuition, when it's actual fear, trying to face it and walk into it has always been really rewarding.

“So I decided, because the boys seemed like such lovely filmmakers who would create a safe space for me, that I would walk into my fear.”

Dastmalchian says he's been drawn to the horror genre since childhood.

“Since I was little boy I was afraid of the dark, I was afraid of death, I was afraid of what lies beyond, what is the thing that we have to do or don't do in this life? All those kinds of big things have scared me since I was a little kid.

“So, with film and cinema and storytelling, comic books, writing, I think horror, in particular, creates all these amazing metaphors, whether they be through monsters, or poltergeists or possessions or serial killers.

“There's all this wonderful metaphoric and symbolic iconography that we can tap into as audience members that go 'oh my God, that totally plays on my fear of being an outsider' or 'That totally plays on my fear of outsiders' or 'That totally plays on my fear of mortality or my fear of isolation'. And I love that, I think it's so cool.”

In many ways, working on a small film is no different to a blockbuster, Dastmalchian says.

“Here's the thing, that's the same. The work is always the same. The work that you're putting in and the work that the artists around you are putting in, it's always the same if you're lucky enough to be surrounded by people who deeply care about the work and have a level of talent and proficiency that can be inspiring.

“And I have been so, so lucky. My gratitude bucket is overflowing because the little, small films that I've been able to make seem to be populated by all these incredible artists who are really pushing the limits of film, like the Cairnes brothers did with Late Night.”

American talk show host Don Lane, whom the Cairnes brothers introduced Dastmalchian to, served as the key inspiration for Jack Delroy.

“They sent me the Don Lane clips, and I go, this is my guy ... He was awesome. He was so cool. And he had a thing about his personality and voice that I felt like I could really tap into and attempt to kind of mimic in building my Jack Delroy.”

As well as getting rave reviews, Dastmalchian says it was a mind-blowing moment when horror great Stephen King tweeted that he couldn’t take his eyes off Late Night with the Devil.

“Do you remember the Garbage Pail Kids? There was this kid Adam Bomb whose head is exploding like an atom bomb. It's just like Oppenheimer all over again. Except for me, when I read that tweet, it was my brain doing a full explosion, it was mind-blowing. I'm a huge fan of Stephen King.”

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