SXSW 2023: Brooklyn 45, Late Night with the Devil | Festivals & Awards
There are aspects of “Brooklyn 45” that feel like they might have worked better in an hour-long anthology series form as the script repeats itself with the same argument a few too many times, especially in the final act. However, give me a flawed film that’s willing to be this personal, unexpected, and thematically complex over a more traditional genre piece any day. Despite how well I know Ted, I feel like anyone should be able to appreciate how much his movies push back at genre expectations, and how much he imbues his work with themes and emotions that matter to him. I hope he continues to do so for a long time.
There’s a similar inventiveness to the Cairnes piece, one elevated greatly by a phenomenally committed performance from the great David Dastmalchian. The star plays Jack Delroy, a Johnny Carson wannabe in the ‘70s who has been struggling in the #2 ratings spot for years. It looks like his syndicated talk show “Night Owls” is never going to get the attention he craves so badly that he’s even joined an Illuminati-like group that meets in the woods and does unsettling things in robes. When Halloween 1977 happened to coincide with the start of sweeps, Delroy and the “Night Owls” team decided to put together a spooky show that included a psychic, a skeptic, and a girl who might possibly be possessed by the devil himself. Things got so weird that the tape of that show was buried by history, never seen again … until now.
Other than an intro and an outro, “Late Night with the Devil” employs a very clever real-time, found footage format, unfolding like you’re watching an old episode of ‘70s TV. When Delroy cuts to commercial, the aspect ratio shifts to behind-the-scenes footage for a couple minutes, but the majority of the film looks and sounds like ‘70s late night TV gone very wrong. “Late Night with the Devil” is about, pardon the language, f**cking around finding out. It’s one of those cautionary tales about a man who thinks he can do anything to get what he wants from his career, and he finds out the hard way what the cost of that will be. I wish the directors committed to their vision in a way that was more consistent and have some major issues with the final act that I couldn’t really get into without spoiling, but there’s still a lot to like here.