There’s No Salvation for ‘Late Night with the Devil’

“Late Night With the Devil,” for all its virtues, is taken down by the cardinal sin of its use of artificial intelligence

A creative rapture is imminent — repent now.

Recent controversy has enveloped the narrative surrounding “Late Night with the Devil” after the film’s creators confessed to using AI to generate several still images, illustrating the disastrous ramifications of favoring spectacle and profit over creativity and honesty in modern media. 

As the use of artificial intelligence in filmmaking becomes increasingly prevalent, artists are worried about their dwindling influence in their own industries. 

“Late Night with the Devil” follows late-night TV show host Jack Delroy, played by David Dastmalchian, who invites supernatural acts onto his show in a desperate attempt to boost ratings. Throughout the live broadcast, Jack and his producers ignore the increasingly dangerous paranormal activities in favor of pleasing their sponsors.

Playing with transcendental fire, Jack discovers a connection between the events on his show and his dead wife — burning him in the process. 

Dastmalchian (“The Suicide Squad,” “Oppenheimer”) shines in his first major lead role, nailing Jack’s charisma and hunger for power. Alongside him, a slew of other slimy, insatiable characters seek fame and fortune from Jack’s broadcast. 

Laura Gordon (“Saw V,” “Reckoning”) plays June Ross-Mitchell, a cautious psychologist juxtaposing Ian Bliss’ (“Matrix Reloaded,” “Scary Movie”) portrayal of the arrogant magician Carmicheal Haig. 

Discord and disagreements brew between Jack, June and Carmicheal as they fight over the true sensation of the night — Lily D’Abo, a young girl possessed by a demonic entity. 

In her first major role, Ingrid Torelli excels in depicting the devilishly difficult role of Lily. Without her unnerving smile and manic gestures, the horror of the film likely would’ve fallen flat.

The film is centered around Lily’s exploitation — it’s apparent every character’s lust for greatness outweighs their compassion for the traumatized, disturbed 13-year-old being paraded on live television like a puppet. 

Jack was also given every opportunity to end the broadcast and save lives. Instead, his choice to indulge in his own selfish desires ultimately leads to his own downfall. 

Like Jack, brother-director duo Cameron and Colin Cairnes are facing their own reckoning after allegations about the utilization of AI in their film started circling on X days before its release. Accusations were confirmed March 21 that several AI generated images were used in the movie by the directors. 

“We experimented with AI for three still images which we edited further and ultimately appear as very brief interstitials in the film,” Cameron and Colin Cairnes wrote in a statement to Variety.

A film about the dangers of greed and exploitation for the sake of spectacle and profit ironically doesn’t heed its own warning. While it was only three images, using AI to generate those stills not only withdrew valuable opportunities from artists, it also used previously existing art to generate the pictures — an inherently exploitative chore. 

The pair claim the AI images appear briefly, however, the pictures are flashed on screen for a few seconds about every five minutes in the film. When the characters cut to commercial during the broadcast, the AI pictures depict halloween-themed commercial bumpers. Repetition of the images adds insult to injury for the artists who could’ve created artwork that would be shown over and over in the film.

Audiences and artists, like film journalist Matt Bellissimo, voice their concern over use of AI over twitter, sparking a greater debate about the value of media produced without humans. Bellissimo wrote on X, “It always starts with small images and TV show intros to cut corners and undercut artists. Innocuous moves to pay people less for work.”

Film enthusiasts worry if the use of AI in media is normalized, it will strip powers from creatives and viewers alike. 

The use of AI in an indie horror film is disappointing. Perhaps the film has a chance of salvation in the eyes of artists if the images were removed and replaced by human-made artwork.

“Late Night with the Devil” is in theaters now.

Featured image courtesy of IFC films.

Sydney Amaya

Sydney Amaya